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Restoration of Degraded Grasslands Can Benefit Climate Change Mitigation and Key Ecosystem Services

New research has demonstrated how, in contrast to encroachment by the invasive alien tree species Prosopis julifora (known as Mathenge -in Kenya or Promi in Baringo), restoration of grasslands in tropical semi-arid regions can both mitigate the impacts of climate change and restore key benefits usually provided by healthy grasslands for pastoralists and agro-pastoralist communities.

A team of Kenyan and Swiss scientists, including lead author Ms.Purity Rima Mbaabu, affiliated to Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation of University of Nairobi and Chuka University and Dr. Urs Schaffner from CABI’s Swiss Centre in Delémont, assessed how invasion by P. julifora and the restoration of degraded grasslands affected soil organic carbon (SOC), biodiversity and fodder availability.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that degradation of grasslands in Baringo County, Kenya, has led to a loss of approximately 40% of SOC, the most important carbon pool in soils. These findings confirm that  degradation significantly contributes to the release of greenhouse gasses and thus to .

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Blue Carbon: The Climate Change Solution You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

This is the eighth part of Carbon Cache, an ongoing series about nature-based climate solutions.

Gail Chmura, a professor at McGill University, had recently joined the school’s geography department in the late 1990s when some of her colleagues were trying to solve a mystery. They were looking at global carbon budgets, and the numbers weren’t adding up. There was a missing carbon sink, sequestering a whole lot of carbon, and nobody knew what it was. They wondered if Canada’s peatlands were part of the missing sink.

Meanwhile, Chmura was sampling salt marshes in the Bay of Fundy, which spans between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Few people had paid salt marshes any attention as carbon sinks because the data showed pretty low levels of carbon at a first glance. But Chmura had a lightbulb moment.

Researchers had been looking at the percentage of carbon in salt marshes by weight. In peatlands, this makes sense because they are almost entirely made of organic matter, which is where carbon is stored in soil.

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‘Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution’: New Paper Outlines Vision for Climate Action

A white paper out Friday declares that “there is hope right beneath our feet” to address the climate crisis as it touts regenerative agriculture as a “win-win-win” solution to tackling runaway carbon emissions.

“Humans broke the planet with grave agricultural malpractice,” Tom Newmark, chairman of The Carbon Underground and a contributor to the research, said in a statement. “With this white paper, Rodale Institute shows us how regenerative agriculture has the potential to repair that damage and actually reverse some of the threatening impacts of our climate crisis.”

“This is a compelling call to action!” he added.

Released by the Rodale Institute and entitled Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution (pdf), the white paper discusses how a transformation of current widespread agricultural practices—which now contribute indirectly and directly to the climate crisis—”can be rolled out tomorrow providing multiple benefits beyond climate stabilization.”

The findings are based on Rodale’s own trials, research data, and interviews with experts, and build upon the institute’s 2014 paper Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming.

The claim made in the new paper is bold: “Data from farming and grazing studies show the power of exemplary regenerative systems that, if achieved globally, would drawdown more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions.”

Regenerative agriculture, as the researchers describe, represents “a system of farming principles that rehabilitates the entire ecosystem and enhances natural resources, rather than depleting them.”

In contrast to industrial practices dependent upon monocultures, extensive tillage, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers, a regenerative approach uses, at minimum, seven practices which aim to boost biodiversity both above and underground and make possible carbon sequestration in soil.

  • Diversifying crop rotations
  • Planting cover crops, green manures, and perennials
  • Retaining crop residues
  • Using natural sources of fertilizer, such as compost
  • Employing highly managed grazing and/or integrating crops and livestock
  • Reducing tillage frequency and depth
  • Eliminating synthetic chemicals

While passers-by may easily spot visual differences above ground between the divergent agricultural approaches, what’s happening below ground is also vital. From the paper:

Contrary to previous thought, it’s not the recalcitrant plant material that persists and creates long-term soil carbon stores, instead it’s the microbes who process this plant matter that are most responsible for soil carbon sequestration. Stable soil carbon is formed mostly by microbial necromass (dead biomass) bonded to minerals (silt and clay) in the soil. Long term carbon storage is dependent on the protection of the microbially-derived carbon from decomposition.

As for claims such as agricultural transformation wouldn’t be able to produce enough food, the paper counters: “Actual yields in well-designed regenerative organic systems, rather than agglomerated averages, have been shown to outcompete conventional yields for almost all food crops including corn, wheat, rice, soybean, and sunflower.”

But that is far from the only benefit. “When compared to conventional industrial agriculture,” the authors write, “regenerative systems improve”:

  • Biodiversity abundance and species richness
  • Soil health, including soil carbon
  • Pesticide impacts on food and ecosystems
  • Total farm outputs
  • Nutrient density of outputs
  • Resilience to climate shocks
  • Provision of ecosystem services
  • Resource use efficiency
  • Job creation and farmworker welfare
  • Farm profitability
  • Rural community revitalization

Rather than framing it as a “wake-up call,” the institute says the paper should be seen as an “invitation to journey in a new direction.”

“It is intended to be both a road map to change and a call to action to follow a new path,” the authors write. “One led by science and blazed by farmers and ranchers across the globe.”

“Together we both sound the alarm and proclaim the regenerative farming solution: It’s time to start our journey with a brighter future for our planet and ourselves as the destination,” the paper states.

Resources accompanying the white paper include a sample letter to members of Congress to urge support for the Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R. 5861), introduced in February by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), and a “buyer’s guide to regenerative food” to help decipher food labels and questions to ask suppliers at farmers’ markets.

“A vast amount of data on the carbon sequestration potential of agricultural soils has been published, including from Rodale Institute, and recent findings are starting to reinforce the benefits of regenerative agricultural practices in the fight against the climate crisis,” said Dr. Andrew Smith, COO and chief scientist of Rodale Institute.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams

The Al Baydha Project: How Regenerative Agriculture Revived Green Life in a Saudi Arabian Desert

Al Baydha is an area in western Saudi Arabia, about 20 miles south of Mecca.  It comprises nine villages inside of roughly 700 kilometers, and its inhabitants are Beduin tribes, who in centennial nomadic tradition, used to move across the land with the rainfall.  This, and other traditional land management methods used in the Arabian Peninsula, allowed the land to stay green for pasture; essential for the animals which are the basis for Beduin economy. But in the 1950s, those traditional systems were abolished.

The Beduin were obliged by law to settle in one area, a change that caused overgrazing and the gradual disappearance of native pasture.  The community was obliged to buy barley and hay for feed. To meet expenses, they chopped trees down for sale as charcoal.  Soon, the once-fertile land was nothing but rocky desert. Wells had to be dug further down to reach water, as the scant seasonal rains, with nothing to contain the water on the land, made flash floods that rolled away to the Dead Sea instead of seeping into the soil to replenish reserves.

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Una visión para la regeneración social y ecológica del humedal de Xochimilco en la Ciudad de México

Por Marya Rubio Lozano

 

El humedal de Xochimilco es un sitio que alberga un valor biológico y cultural importante Por esta razón es considerado Patrimonio de la Humanidad (UNESCO) y Sitio de Importancia Agrícola Mundial (FAO).

Humedalia es una organización mexicana dedicada a la conservación y restauración de los humedales mexicanos. Forma parte de la red de afiliados de Regeneration International y como tal ha aplicado al programa de asesoría científica y técnica de la iniciativa 4 por 1000.

El trabajo de Humedalia se concentra en las chinampas de Xochimilco (Chinampas se refiere a un sistema de cultivos en jardines flotantes creado en lechos de lagos poco profundos, utilizando técnicas agrícolas desarrolladas por los aztecas).

La producción agrícola en chinampas, o islas de tierra cultivables, data de hace más de 800 años, cuando las primeras tribus que se establecieron en la Cuenca de México alcanzaban a producir 4 t/ha de cultivos. Esta alta producción permitió el desarrollo de grandes asentamientos urbanos hasta lo que hoy en día conocemos como la Ciudad de México. Estas urbes generaron una gran demanda de recursos hídricos y una transformación del suelo agrícola a urbano.

Actualmente, el humedal de Xochimilco y su paisaje de chinampas representan el 2% del agua dulce que originalmente había en la Cuenca. Este paisaje agrícola se encuentra altamente amenazado por procesos ligados a la urbanización y devaluación del trabajo campesino. Alrededor del 80% de las chinampas se encuentran abandonadas y la contaminación del agua ha deteriorado la fertilidad del suelo. Además, los pocos productores agrícolas que quedan en el lugar enfrentan una alta competencia con modelos de producción intensivos (mayormente subsidiados) y los precios de sus productos son castigados disminuyendo la rentabilidad de su trabajo.

Por otra parte, el humedal de Xochimilco es vital para la Ciudad de México debido a los múltiples beneficios ambientales que le brinda, tales como regulación del microclima, captación de agua y recarga de mantos acuíferos, producción de oxígeno y alimentos, reciclamiento de nutrientes y secuestro de carbono. En un sitio donde la calidad del aire comúnmente supera los niveles saludables de contaminación en el aire, el secuestro de carbono es fundamental para la resiliencia de la Ciudad. Los humedales secuestran grandes cantidades de carbono (0.4-32 Mg ha-1 año-1) en sus sedimentos gracias a las condiciones anaerobias que éstos presentan, lo cual permite que la tasa de descomposición de la materia orgánica sea baja y se favorezca la acumulación de carbono. A su vez, este beneficio se puede potencializar al trabajar las chinampas con técnicas de cultivo tradicional (sostenibles) en sinergia con nuevas técnicas de cultivo orgánicas como el método de cultivo biointensivo.

Este proyecto busca incrementar el secuestro de carbono mediante un enfoque sistémico agua-suelo. A partir de la restauración de los canales y la rehabilitación de hectáreas de tierras ociosas, se mejorará la calidad de agua disponible para riego y se regenerará el suelo de las chinampas, incrementado la cantidad de secuestro de carbono del ecosistema.

Asimismo, el proyecto contribuirá a la protección de hábitat para la flora y fauna endémica del lugar como el axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum, y ayudará a recuperar la identidad cultural vinculada a la agricultura milenaria que sobrevive en las manos de los agricultores tradicionales.

Este proyecto de regeneración del suelo chinampero (rehabilitación, siembra y mantenimiento), brindará una opción redituable a miembros de la comunidad local para aumentar sus ingresos y la oportunidad de vincular distintas generaciones en el trabajo, creando un espacio itinerante para el intercambio de saberes y experiencias sobre las prácticas de cultivo ancestrales. A su vez, las chinampas regeneradas producirán alimentos más saludables. A través de su venta y/o transformación se integra a otro sector familiar, las mujeres y niños de la comunidad, que culturalmente no suelen participar directamente en la producción.

Y a su vez, las chinampas regeneradas producirán alimento más saludable.

Como parte de la red de Regeneration International y presentándose a la iniciativa 4 por 1000, el proyecto de Humedalia ayuda a mejorar las condiciones socioecológicas del humedal de Xochimilco. El secuestro de carbono beneficiará directamente a la calidad del aire de una de las ciudades más contaminadas del mundo, pero el proyecto interviene también en la esfera social del sitio, mejorando el bienestar de la comunidad generando autoempleo por el trabajo de las chinampas, y sembrando condiciones para la participación social a través de la generación de redes de colaboración que fortalezcan a la comunidad.

Mayra Rubio Lozano es directora de investigación científica y desarrollo sostenible para Humedalia A.C. Para mantenerse al día con las noticias de Regeneration Internationalsuscríbase a nuestro boletín.

How South Africa’s Mangrove Forests Store Carbon and Why It Matters

Scientists around the world are looking for ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This gas is a natural component of the atmosphere, released by processes of respiration and decomposition of organic matter.

But human activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels such as coal have released a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s.

The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is directly linked to global warming. Climate-related risks for the environment and for human societies have been observed in the form of increased mean temperatures and a higher frequency at which extreme events – heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods, and storms—are occurring around the world.

One of the natural ways that carbon dioxide can be taken out of the atmosphere is the process of photosynthesis by plants. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, use the carbon for their growth, and release the oxygen back into the air. mangr

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Why Ecosystem Restoration Comes First in the New Business Models

Humility

Degraded Environment

Good news: we can do better!

Abundant resources

Ethics are important in this shift. What kind of humans do we want to be? Is maximizing profit giving our lives purpose? Or do we want to create optimum value for all?

Boosting nature

Living with abundance

Indigenous cultures and permaculture

Large scale restoration

Picture credit: Green Gold, a documentary by John D. Liu.

Picture credit: Green Gold, a documentary by John D. Liu.

A sacred mountain in India

Food forests in Europe

Connection

 

Posted with permission from Medium

Proponen salvar el permafrost con una masa de grandes herbívoros

MADRID, 27 Ene. (EUROPA PRESS) –

Investigadores de Oxford estiman que introducir en masa grandes herbívoros en la tundra ártica para restaurar el ecosistema y mitigar el calentamiento global resulta económicamente viable.

Se sabe que los animales que pastan como los caballos y los bisontes diseñan el paisaje a su alrededor, por ejemplo, suprimiendo el crecimiento de los árboles pisoteando o comiendo árboles jóvenes. Cuando este proceso se aprovecha para restaurar un ecosistema a un estado anterior, se denomina reconstrucción. También se puede usar para cambiar un ecosistema a un estado diferente pero más deseable. Esto se conoce como ingeniería de ecosistemas megafaunales.

En muchas partes del mundo, los ecosistemas forestales se consideran los más importantes para restaurar debido a su capacidad para almacenar carbono. Pero en la tundra ártica, cambiar el paisaje de la vegetación leñosa a los pastizales mejoraría la protección del permafrost rico en carbono, reduciría las emisiones de carbono asociadas con el deshielo del permafrost y aumentaría la captura de carbono en el suelo.

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‘Mother Nature Recovers Amazingly Fast’: Reviving Ukraine’s Rich Wetlands

A battered old military truck and rusting Belarusian tractor are perched on the edge of degraded wetland in the heart of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. They have been hastily deployed in a desperate attempt to save an excavator from being swallowed by the squelching earth beside the obsolete Soviet dam it is trying to demolish.

In the 1970s, 11 earth dams were built on the Sarata and Kogilnik rivers as a crude alternative to footbridges to access the area’s aquifers.

Ornithologist Maxim Yakovlev remembers that prior to the construction of the dams, the local rivers slowly meandered through a rich wetland ecosystem which would store, hold back and slowly release water after heavy rains. “Back then, before the dams, when the ecosystem was functioning properly, we had healthier soil and vegetation,” says Yakovlev, as he skirts the edge of a reeking swamp near the tiny, ancient town of Tatarbunary on the northern fringe of the reserve, a 100-mile (160km) drive south-west of Odessa.

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Levels of Biodiversity

Finally, biodiversity is having a moment.

At the UN Climate Action Summit in September, Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone, announced the launch of the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) coalition, stating, “We thought we could engineer the life that we needed and kill the rest in the fields. The resulting monocropping consequences are standing right in front of us.”

Government and large-scale business decision-makers are coming to terms with two sides of a coin of ecological reality: Biodiversity has immense inherent value on our planet, AND the ongoing devastation of biodiversity will drastically decrease global human quality of life.

Biodiversity is a key factor in the earth’s provision of ecosystem services — including biomass production, nutrient and water cycling, and soil formation and retention — but the ongoing, mounting losses to biodiversity are not simply an environmental issue. The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services states that “Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards 80% of the Sustainable Development Goals, related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land.”

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