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Native Plants Sequester Carbon in the Soil for Longer

Exotic plant species release 150 percent more carbon dioxide from the soil than native New Zealand plants, according to a new study from the Bio-Protection Research Centre published in Science.

The research is the latest development in an extended scientific debate over whether to prioritise planting native or exotic species to increase biodiversity and fight climate change.

While it doesn’t upset the longstanding scientific consensus that faster-growing plants sequester more carbon – and that exotic species planted outside their usual range will grow faster – the study does complicate the picture of the carbon cycle.

Carbon cycling and the soil

So what is the carbon cycle and how does CO2 get into the soil in the first place?

“It’s really important to think of it as a cycle,” the study’s lead author Dr Lauren Waller told Newsroom. Waller is a researcher at Lincoln University and a postdoctoral fellow at the Bio-Protection Research Centre.

While most people understand that plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they don’t always realise what happens next.

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A Vision for the Social and Ecological Regeneration of Mexico City’s Xochimilco Wetlands

By Mayra Rubio Lozano

MEXICO CITY – Xochimilco is a city south of Mexico City best known for its canals. The area’s wetlands,  recognized for their important biological and cultural value, are why Xochimilco is named as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO) and Site of Agricultural Importance (FAO). 

Humedalia is a Mexican organization that works for the conservation and restoration of the Mexican wetlands. It is part of the Regeneration International partner network and as such, has applied for the Scientific and Technical committee evaluation program of the 4 per 1000 initiative

Humedalia’s work focuses on the chinampas of Xochimilco. (Chinampas refers to a system of growing crops in floating gardens created in shallow lake beds, using farming techniques developed by the Aztecs).

Agricultural production in chinampas, or islands of arable land, started over 800 years ago.  When the first tribes that settled in the Mexico basin, they were able to produce 4t/ha of crops. These high yields allowed the development of big urban settlements, such as what we have today in Mexico City. These cities generated a big demand for water resources, and ultimately led to the transfer of agriculture to urban soil.

Today, Xochimilco’s wetland and its landscape of chinampas retain only 2 percent of the fresh water that was originally in the basin. This agricultural landscape is highly threatened by processes linked to urbanization and the devaluation of the farmers’ labor. About  80 percent of the chinampas are abandoned, and water pollution has deteriorated the soil’s fertility. The few agricultural producers that remain face steep competition and low profits, because the intensive agricultural model, mostly subsidized, has forced these producers to lower the prices.

Despite the negative impact of urbanization, Xochimilco’s wetlands remain vital for Mexico City. They provide multiple environmental benefits, such as microclimate regulation, water catchment and recharge of the groundwater reserves, oxygen and food production, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration. In a city where air pollution levels usually exceed healthy standards, carbon sequestration is fundamental for the city’s resilience. Wetlands sequester large amounts of carbon (0.4-32 Mg ha-1 year-1) in their sediments because of their anaerobic conditions, which slow the rate of decay of organic matter, facilitating carbon accumulation. In turn, carbon sequestration can be optimized by using traditional farming techniques (sustainable) in the chinampas in combination with new organic farming techniques, such as the biointensive method. 

This project seeks to increase carbon sequestration through a water-soil systemic approach. By restoring canals and rehabilitating hectares of idle land, the quality of the water available for watering will improve, and the chinampas’ soil will be regenerated, leading to an increase in the amount of the ecosystem’s carbon sequestration.

The project also will contribute to the local endemic flora and fauna’s habitat protection, such as the axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum, a type of salamander known as the Mexican walking fish. Protecting local flora and fauna will help restore the cultural identity linked to ancestral agriculture that survives in the hands of traditional farmers.

This project for regenerating the chinampas soil (rehabilitation, growing and maintenance) will provide the local community opportunities to increase family income and engage multiple generations, creating a space for the exchange of knowledge and experiences about ancestral farming techniques. Women and children who typically don’t participate directly in food production can become involved in marketing, sales and processing. 

In turn, regenerated chinampas will produce healthier foods. 

As part of the Regeneration International partner network, and applying for the 4 per 1000 initiative, Humedalia project helps improve socio-ecological conditions of Xochimilco’s wetland. Carbon sequestration will have a positive direct impact on the air quality of one of the most polluted cities in the world. But the project will also focus on the social aspect, improving the wellbeing of the community by generating self-employment at the chinampas, and creating the right conditions for social participation through collaborative networks that strengthen the community. 

Mayra Rubio Lozano is director of scientific research and sustainable development for Humedalia A.C. To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

 

Regenerative Agriculture Could Save the Planet. Why Doesn’t Everyone Know About It?

Food giant General Mills recently announced that the company is set to partner with farmers to advance regenerative agriculture practices on one million acres of farmland by 2030. The company committed to the idea after researching information about Will Harris’ cattle ranch in Georgia. His ranch, White Oak Pastures, uses targeted agricultural methods that have turned the land into a carbon sink, absorbing the majority of emissions caused by the beef production.

The Climate Reality Project explains that “regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm by placing a heavy premium on soil health with attention also paid to water management, fertilizer use, and more. It is a method of farming that improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them.”

In North Dakota, rancher and farmer Gabe Brown has helped lead this agricultural movement.

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Natural, Biodiverse Forests More Reliable at Fighting Climate Change than Plantations

How reliable are long-lived plantations composed of a few species for carbon capture, when compared with natural tropical forests that comprise many species?

Fighting climate change through reforestation activities, such as large-scale plantations, has gained global traction over recent years. To reduce carbon emissions, international efforts such as the Bonn Challenge and Paris Climate Accord have promoted tapping into the power of trees that suck in and sequester carbon in multiple ways.

Researchers conducted a study in one of India’s biodiversity hotspots, the Western Ghats. They compared carbon storage and rates of carbon capture of mature mono-dominant plantations, with those of neighboring natural forests harbouring a diverse mix of native species.

Although mono-dominant plantations could match natural biodiverse forests in terms of carbon capture and storage potential, the latter were more stable and hence more reliable in their ability to capture carbon over the years, particularly in the face of droughts.

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Restoring Soils Could Remove up to ‘5.5bn Tonnes’ of Greenhouse Gases Every Year

Replenishing and protecting the world’s soil carbon stores could help to offset up to 5.5bn tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, a study finds.

This is just under the current annual emissions of the US, the world’s second largest polluter after China.

Around 40% of this carbon offsetting potential would come from protecting existing soil carbon stores in the world’s forests, peatlands and wetlands, the authors say.

In many parts of the world, such soil-based “natural climate solutions” could come with co-benefits for wildlife, food production and water retention, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Ground up

The top metre of the world’s soils contains three times as much carbon as the entire atmosphere, making it a major carbon sink alongside forests and oceans.

Soils play a key role in the carbon cycle by soaking up carbon from dead plant matter. Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and this is passed to the ground when dead roots and leaves decompose.

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Tierras ricas en carbono pueden evitar catástrofes climáticas

ARLINGTON, Estados Unidos, 31 mar 2020 (IPS) – Las tierras ricas en carbono, en bosques, turberas y humedales, pueden ahorrarle al planeta una catástrofe climática, a condición de que no se destruyan ni se degraden, advirtió una investigación de la organización Conservation International divulgada este martes 31.

El carbono irrecuperable se encuentra en seis de los siete continentes en que la organización divide el planeta, incluidas grandes reservas en la Amazonia, en la cuenca del Congo, Indonesia, el noroeste de América del Norte, el sur de Chile, el sudeste de Australia y en Nueva Zelanda.

La investigación, dirigida por los científicos Allie Goldstein y Will Turner, destacó que “el mundo necesita que el carbono irrecuperable que contienen estas tierras, más de 260 000 millones de toneladas, se quede en el suelo”, para alcanzar la meta de emisiones cero requerida en el planeta para el año 2050.

En cambio, si se libera a la atmósfera a través de la destrucción del ecosistema, este carbono generaría 26 veces las emisiones globales de combustible fósil de 2019.

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You’ve Heard of Offsetting, But What in the World Is Carbon Insetting?

These days, paying to plant trees or investing in green projects as a way to balance out your carbon emissions is a pretty standard method of easing your environmental conscience. Known as carbon offsetting, the process has spawned a thriving business making billions of euros every year as companies trade carbon credits to reach climate change goals.

You can now even offset to undo your own personal environmental damage, with airlines and organisations offering to help you take full responsibility for your residual emissions. For a small fee, of course. Increasingly, however, this sustainability solution has come under fire from activists as being little more than greenwashing. Critics have compared it to the practice of selling indulgences in the ancient Catholic church; you can live how you want as long as you have the money to buy off your sins.

What if, instead of making environmental protection a side issue, businesses made these kinds of carbon-absorbing projects a part of the new normal?

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Restoring Soils Could Remove up to ‘5.5bn Tonnes’ of Greenhouse Gases Every Year

Replenishing and protecting the world’s soil carbon stores could help to offset up to 5.5bn tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, a study finds.

This is just under the current annual emissions of the US, the world’s second largest polluter after China.

Around 40 per cent of this carbon offsetting potential would come from protecting existing soil carbon stores in the world’s existing forests, peatlands and wetlands, the authors say.

In many parts of the world, such soil-based “natural climate solutions” could come with co-benefits for wildlife, food production and water retention, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Ground up

The top metre of the world’s soils contains three times as much carbon as the entire atmosphere, making it a major carbon sink alongside forests and oceans.

Soils play a key role in the carbon cycle by soaking up carbon from dead plant matter. Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and this is passed to the ground when dead roots and leaves decompose.

KEEP READING ON ECO BUSINESS

Natural Solutions to the Climate Crisis? One-quarter Is All down to Earth

Joint research conducted by the Nature Conservancy and the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, calculated the carbon-storing power of global soils and showcased approaches like agroforestry designed to capitalise on untapped potential.

A critical, nature-based approach to mitigating  has been right at our feet all along, according to a new study reporting that soil represents up 25% of the total global potential for  (NCS) – approaches that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it into landscapes, including forests, croplands and peatlands.

Representing the first time soil’s total global potential for carbon-mitigation across forests, wetlands, agriculture and grasslands together has been cataloged, the study provides a timely reminder not to neglect the power of soils and the many benefits these ecosystems can deliver for climate, wildlife and agriculture.

Published in the journal Nature Sustainability, the study is titled “The role of soil carbon in natural climate solutions.” The research also argues that a lack of clarity to date regarding the full scale of this opportunity and how to best capitalize on it has restricted investment.

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Deja tu hamburguesa vegetariana. ¿podrían las vacas realmente resolver la crisis climática?

Danie Slabbert señala el ganado que le devolvió la vida a su granja. Bajando la cuesta delante de él, 500 vacas Drakensberger negras y Nguni moteadas pastan con sus cabezas sumergidas en el pasto.

El granjero del Estado Libre hizo un gesto con el estafador de su pastor gigante.

“Si el ganado es parte de la naturaleza, como lo es ahora, entonces mis vacas mantienen vivo el sistema”, dice. “¿Cómo puedes pensar que la carne es el problema?”

“Me he convertido en un administrador de esta tierra y las vacas son la clave”, dice Slabbert.

Imita la migración

Antes de la llegada de los colonos con sus rifles y vagones, esta parte de lo que hoy es la provincia del Estado Libre de Sudáfrica era una gran pradera. Más de 30 especies de hierba han anclado las llanuras onduladas; forraje para millones de antílopes migratorios.

Con el tiempo, los rebaños salvajes fueron sacrificados y gran parte de las llanuras se convirtieron en campos de maíz y papas.

Todavía hay muchos pastizales aquí, o veld, como lo llaman los sudafricanos. Los agricultores como Slabbert miran a estos enormes rebaños para recrear el ciclo natural.

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