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Measurement and monitoring

Monitoring, estimating, and measuring soil carbon and soil organic matter. For the latest version of Measuring Soil Carbon Change: a practical, flexible, local method, click here

4-H Soil Health Project Ideas

Oklahoma and Texas now have Soil Health Achievement Awards for 4-H: a $1,200 scholarship will be given to a 4-H’er who has excelled in learning and teaching about soil health. The Soil Carbon Coalition and the Dixon Watershed Foundation pioneered these awards: Why? We know that soil health is key to agricultural productivity, clean water, food security, protection against flooding and drought, biodiversity, and human health. These are exactly the kinds of things that are important to 4-H clubs: and they offer wonderful opportunities to make a difference in the land, water, and community that surrounds you.

Does your 4-H club want to get involved?
Here are some of our project ideas, but we know you will

Field guide to the most powerful planetary force

Draft version of the Guide here:

This replaces "Measuring Soil Carbon Change: a flexible, practical, local method"

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atlasbiowork: a framework or scaffold for a shared intelligence or user interface on landscape function

Quickstart guide

You can log in to using your Google, Facebook, and Twitter identities, and we will not share your email or identities, but use them only for your login. If these logins don't work for you, we can supply you with a username and password on request. Contact Peter at

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Remonitoring in California

This winter's remonitoring of California baseline carbon plots established in January-February 2011 showed most with little change, or slight losses. The highest gain was from a plot near Watsonville managed with holistic planned grazing by Joe Morris of TO Cattle Company ( which showed significant increases in all three layers sampled, with results viewable on the map of soil carbon change:

Atlas of Biological Work: a shared intelligence on landscape function

A short proposal for a fully featured Atlas of biological work (or Atlas of Land Work), an expansion of the Map of Soil Carbon Change. Some of the work on this is being funded by RSF Social Finance, the San Benito Community Foundation, and TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Buckminster Fuller

If you want to make small changes, change how you do things.
If you want to make big changes, you must change how you see things.

Don Campbell

Life, powered by a mere thousandth of incoming sunlight, is the most powerful and creative planetary force. Our planet's atmosphere, its soils, its blue, white, and green colors viewed from space, even the composition of its crust and oceans, are the products of eons of

Monitoring pyramid

While we're on the subject of pyramids, Charley Orchard at has made a useful diagram of what makes monitoring valuable. Click the image to go to the May 2011 Land EKG newsletter explaining it.

Google Earth Engine displays satellite data on energy flow

A 32-day Landsat EVI composite image from Google Earth Engine showing San Juan Bautista, California, from April 7 to May 9, 2010. The town is at upper left. The tan-colored areas, upper center, are farm fields. The darker green areas on the bottom are pasture lands and woodland.  

Measuring soil carbon change: a flexible, practical, local method

Measuring soil carbon change: a flexible, practical, local method is available for download, review, and use. About 2 megabytes, pdf.


In general, statistical accuracy increases with the square root of sample size. Doubling your sensitivity and accuracy quadruples your cost. It's a power law, not a normal distribution, and it pushes us toward extremes.

In measuring soil carbon using traditional sampling, what this means is that the high achievers are easiest and cheapest to measure (circled red in the diagram below). A sampling scheme that is adequate for measuring a large change in soil carbon between an initial baseline and resampling, may not yield a significant result if the change turns out to be small.


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