February 28, 2007
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Global Climate Change Digest
A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999
FROM VOLUME 12, NUMBER 2, FEBRUARY 1999
Carbon Sequestration in Soil
method proposed for reducing carbon emissions to meet the requirements of
the Kyoto Protocol is to sequester carbon in the soil. However, it will be
difficult, if not impossible, to verify claims that carbon actually is
being sequestered in soils. Moreover, uncertainty about the costs,
benefits, and risks of new practices will make producers reluctant to
adopt new technologies to increase carbon sequestration.
A workshop to explore scientific and policy problems associated with
soil carbon sequestration was sponsored by the USEPA, USDA, DOE, the
Monsanto Company, and NASA and reported in a press release from Pacific
Northwest National Laboratory. It was held at St. Michaels, Md., and
attended by nearly 100 U.S. and Canadian scientists, practitioners, and
policymakers representing agricultural commodity groups and industries,
government agencies, universities, and the World Bank. The major
conclusions of the workshop were:
- Farms, forests, and grasslands can play an important role in
combating global warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere and
sequestering it in the soil; during the next 50 to 100 years,
agricultural lands alone have the potential to remove anywhere from 40
to 80 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
- Practical and economically viable farming methods are available that
can increase carbon storage in soil, but research is needed.
- Changes in soil-carbon content can be monitored, but current methods
are crude and expensive; technological development could provide widely
applicable methods at a reasonable cost.
- Vast areas of degraded and decertified lands exist throughout the
world where improvements in rangeland management, dryland farming, and
irrigation can add carbon to the soil and, at the same time, stabilize
the soil against erosion and increase its fertility and productivity.
When croplands are planted to perennial grasses under the
Conservation Reserve Program, as much as a half ton or more of carbon per
acre can be returned to the soil annually. And when agricultural land
reverts to forest, soil carbon can accumulate at even greater rates,
especially in the tropics, said Norm Rosenberg of PNNL.
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