The Role of Carbon Sequestration in Mitigating Climate Change

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere has increased dramatically over the past 250 years and is causing widespread environmental changes. To mitigate this ecological crisis caused by climate change, we need a combination of strategies that reduce human-caused CO2 emissions and remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

Before humans began loading up the atmosphere with CO2, the earth’s “carbon cycle” maintained a near balance of CO2 levels by sequestering excess carbon in the ocean, vegetation and soils. These natural uptake mechanisms can no longer keep pace with the accelerating rate of emissions from human activities. Deforestation, industrial agriculture water pollution and other human activities have also compromised natural carbon sinks.

The Earth Partners (TEP) and its member firm Applied Ecological Services, have been at the forefront of carbon sequestration research and development for almost 20 years. AES and its partners created science-based methods for measuring, monitoring and documenting for the marketplace, soil carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration. TEP has formalized that method, which has now been validated through Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Association.  TEP and other partners will employ this soil carbon method and its expertise in terrestrial carbon sequestration of forests, wetlands, rangelands and croplands to accelerate greenhouse gas emission reductions through sequestration via conservation, ecosystem restorations and agricultural projects.

As with all strategies to reduce atmospheric carbon, terrestrial carbon sequestration has many economic, social and ecological trade offs. But done well, climate change mitigation as well as other benefits can be achieved.  For example, converting marginal farmlands to forests or wetlands may increase carbon sequestration, enhance wildlife habitat and water quality and increase flood storage and recreational potential.  Harvesting invasive woody perennials from degraded rangeland can yield valuable biofuels and also support native grasses to thrive again thus increasing carbon storage, soil health, and water quality.

In 2010, Applied Ecological Systems (AES) was awarded one of nine conservation innovation grants from the USDA and NRCS to refine and calibrate the TEP Soil Carbon Method to achieve a high level of confidence for use by emerging carbon markets. The Method was been tested in a wide range of ecosystem and agricultural projects in North, South and Central America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Testing and technical peer review spanned four years and involved many key global soil scientists. TEP’s resulting methodology is performance and measurement-based to ensure that carbon credits brought to the marketplace are “real”.

The restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands can revitalize some of the most powerful carbon sinks in the world. TEP’s soil carbon quantification methodology will ensure good data is available to build models with higher confidence for these and other land types. Capturing the real climate benefits will help drive carbon market incentive payments and maximize investments in these critical initiatives to mitigate climate change.

To learn more about TEP and its member partners: www.theearthpartners.com.

 

Healthy ecosystems of all types convert atmospheric CO2 into plant and soil carbon above and below the ground achieving additional benefits of improved biodiversity, water quality, and food security and energy security.

 

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