Soil type as a driver of agricultural climate change response in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta

Start/End: February, 2018 to January, 2020

California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was drained for agricultural use more than one hundred years ago, transforming carbon-rich peatlands into a subsided mix of organic and mineral soils. The cycling of nutrients through soil is vital for sustaining agricultural production, as may have major effects on potential land-based climate mitigation efforts, but these two distinct soil types may cycle nutrients differently. This study aims to improve understanding of the carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen cycles in Delta soils, supporting adaptive management of agriculture in a changing climate.

Through field and laboratory research in collaboration with farmers, land managers, and researchers at UC Berkeley, this project will:

  1. Increase understanding of how peatlands and iron-rich soils differently cycle carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the Delta.
  2. Establish how carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus biogeochemistry varies with management and crop type.
  3. Explore how a drier future climate will influence biogeochemistry in iron-rich soils and how management actions could affect this.

The project goal is to help identify agricultural practices that could become part of a portfolio of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies for Delta farmers. The greenhouse gas data collected as part of this research could also help generate accurate and appropriate emission offset credits for potential wetland restoration projects in California’s cap-and-trade program.

Research Mentor: Whendee Silver, University of California, Berkeley
Community Mentor: Steven Deverel, Hydrofocus, Inc.