carbon sequestration

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Planting the Seeds for ‘Greener’ Farms

Sustainable ag makes its bid for cap & trade revenues

Craig Miller

Reducing tillage is one technique farmers are trying out to cut carbon emissions.

Supporters of sustainable agriculture are looking forward to some “sustenance” of their own, after an eleventh-hour win in Sacramento. Just as the state’s last legislative session was drawing to a close, Assembly Bill 1532 passed by a vote of 51-28, sending to the governor’s desk a system for allocating cap-and-trade auction revenues, which are expected to reach into the billions of dollars by the end of next year.

AB 1532, authored by Assembly Speaker John Pérez, lays out an approach for ensuring that all proceeds from the sale of permits be used to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Among the eligible activities identified in the bill are farming and ranching practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon, such as reducing soil tillage, improving energy and water efficiency, and reducing synthetic fertilizer use through compost, cover crops, and crop rotation. Continue reading

How Much Carbon Do California’s Forests Hold?

It’s a tough number to nail down, but a federal program is zeroing in on it

Molly Samuel

Trees, grasses and freshwater aquatic systems all play a part in the carbon cycle.

The U.S. Geological Survey is developing a series of reports on how much carbon and other greenhouse gases the nation’s ecosystems hold. Trees and plants, soils and rivers, farms and wetlands all sequester carbon to greater or lesser extents. But how much? And how might that number change in the future? That’s the crux of the USGS study, which was initiated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [page 223 of the PDF]. (There’s a simultaneous study, also by the USGS, to assess geologic carbon sequestration).

The national assessment will include details on greenhouse gas sequestration nationwide: how much carbon is stored now, how that carbon sink might be altered by different land use scenarios in the future (for example, increased or decreased logging, urbanization, wetland restoration efforts or agriculture), plus impacts from other sources, such as wildfire and climate change.

Continue reading

Natural Carbon Storage Off the California Coast?

A new study from the University of Southern California finds that the cool waters off the coast of Los Angeles are acting as a carbon sink by sequestering more carbon than other parts of the world’s oceans.

Lisa Collins, a lecturer at the USC Dornsife College, spent four years studying samples from floating sediment traps in the San Pedro Basin as a way to determine what’s falling through the water column and how deep it’s getting.

“We have a pretty good idea of how much biomass is produced in the ocean, but we don’t have a great idea of how much of that biomass actually gets down through the water column and ultimately to the sediment,” said Collins.

One reason that matters, she says, is that phytoplankton, which make up much of the biomass, live and grow by taking up sunlight and carbon dioxide, just like plants on land do. When the phytoplankton die, they sink, taking that stored carbon down the water column with them. If they make it all the way to the mud at the bottom of the ocean, Collins says, that carbon will be sequestered there for hundreds or thousands of years or more. Continue reading

California’s Giant Carbon Sponge

California's forests provide water, habitat for animals, lumber and tourism dollars, and they sequester carbon. (Photo: Molly Samuel)

For decades the federal government has touted the nearly 200 million acres of national forests and grasslands under its control as a “land of many uses.” But one “use” that’s seldom discussed is as a huge repository for carbon.

But clearly it’s on the minds of officials and scientists as the Forest Service seeks comments on its proposed new planning rule. National Forests and Grasslands are managed individually, but the planning rule guides how those management plans are developed. This new one is replacing a Planning Rule from 1982. Continue reading