Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Better managed cropland soil could trap as much planet-warming carbon as transport produces or 17.5% of annual global emissions- study

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by Thin Lei Win Tuesday, 14 November 2017 17:15 GMT  Read full Thomson Reuters Foundation article here

Improving soil health in farmlands could capture extra carbon equivalent to the planet-warming emissions generated by the transport sector, one of the world’s most polluting industries, experts said Tuesday.

Soil naturally absorbs carbon from the atmosphere through a process known as sequestration which not only reduce harmful greenhouse gases but also creates more fertile soil.

Better soil management could boost carbon stored in the top layer of the soil by up to 1.85 gigatonnes each year, about the same as the carbon emissions of transport globally, according to a study published in the journal Nature. “Healthier soils store more carbon and produce more food,” Louis Verchot of the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

“Investing in better soil management will make our agricultural systems more productive and resilient to future shocks and stresses.”

Using compost, keeping soil disturbance to a minimum and rotating crops to include plants such as legumes can help restore organic matter in the soil, Verchot told the Thomson Reuters Foundation….

Robert J. Zomer, Deborah A. Bossio, Rolf Sommer & Louis V. Verchot. Global Sequestration Potential of Increased Organic Carbon in Cropland Soils. Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 15554 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-15794-8

ABSTRACT: The role of soil organic carbon in global carbon cycles is receiving increasing attention both as a potentially large and uncertain source of CO2 emissions in response to predicted global temperature rises, and as a natural sink for carbon able to reduce atmospheric CO2. There is general agreement that the technical potential for sequestration of carbon in soil is significant, and some consensus on the magnitude of that potential. Croplands worldwide could sequester between 0.90 and 1.85 Pg C/yr, i.e. 26–53% of the target of the “4p1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate”. The importance of intensively cultivated regions such as North America, Europe, India and intensively cultivated areas in Africa, such as Ethiopia, is highlighted. Soil carbon sequestration and the conservation of existing soil carbon stocks, given its multiple benefits including improved food production, is an important mitigation pathway to achieve the less than 2 °C global target of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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