Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Protecting and Restoring Soils Could Remove 5.5 Billion Tonnes of CO2 a Year

Climate
A tractor pressed deep tracks in the soil after heavy rainfall in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on March 6, 2020. New research emphasizes the value of leaving existing healthy soils alone. Jens Büttner / picture alliance via Getty Images

Restoring and protecting the world's soil could remove the equivalent of the U.S.'s annual greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere.


That's the conclusion of a study published in Nature Sustainability Monday, which set out to explore the potential of soil as a natural solution to the climate crisis.

"I talk about soil as being the forgotten solution," study lead author and Nature Conservancy chief soil scientist Dr. Deborah Bossio told Carbon Brief. "What we're really trying to emphasize is that soil is important and so it should not be ignored, but also not exaggerated."

The study found that soil made up 25 percent of the potential of natural climate solutions — the term for enhancing the ability of Earth's ecosystems to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Boosting soil's carbon-gulping capacities and protecting existing soil could remove a total of 23.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, or 5.5 billion tonnes a year, AFP reported.

The research found that 40 percent of this drawdown could be achieved simply by leaving existing healthy soils alone. That's because the top meter (approximately 3.28 feet) of soil contains three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere as it absorbs decomposing plants, Carbon Brief explained. But agriculture can disturb this process.

"Most of the ongoing destruction of these ecosystems is about expanding the footprint of agriculture, so slowing or halting that expansion is an important strategy," Bossio told AFP.

The remaining 60 percent of soil's carbon-storing potential would come through restoring soil that has been depleted, the study said. This includes techniques like spreading "biochar," a carbon-rich charcoal that improves carbon storage and also is said to boost crop yield, according to Carbon Brief.

In fact, many soil replenishing strategies have additional benefits.

"Protecting what's still in the ground and rebuilding the soil carbon in our agricultural systems is pretty much a no-brainer, because of all the multiple benefits that we get," Bossio told Carbon Brief. "In a lot of our farming systems, soil carbon levels are at a state where, if you improve them, you get benefits in terms of water regulation, water quality, stabilizing production and resilience in the systems."

However, there is tension between the need to preserve soils, forests and wetlands for carbon storage and the need to feed a growing population, AFP pointed out. Bossio said that, in response, the role of agriculture and the way it is compensated needed to be revised.

"Shift the incentive structures in agriculture towards payments for the range of ecosystem services, food, climate, water and biodiversity that agriculture can provide to society," she told AFP.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Brian Sims ranted in a Facebook Live video that went viral about the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers who are pushing to reopen the state even though one of their members had a positive COVID-19 test. Brian Sims / Facebook

Brian Sims, a Democratic representative in the Pennsylvania legislature, ranted in a Facebook Live video that went viral about the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers who are pushing to reopen the state even though one of their members had a positive COVID-19 test.

Read More Show Less
Wolf pups with their mother at their den site. Design Pics / Getty Images

In another reversal of Obama-era regulations, the Trump administration is having the National Park Service rescind a 2015 order that protected bears and wolves within protected lands.

Read More Show Less
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says this is a historic step for the group. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

By Linda Lacina

World Health Organization officials today announced the launch of the WHO Foundation, a legally separate body that will help expand the agency's donor base and allow it to take donations from the general public.

Read More Show Less
Because of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, in-person sessions are less possible. Merlas / Getty Images

By Nicholas Joyce

The coronavirus has resulted in stress, anxiety and fear – symptoms that might motivate a person to see a therapist. Because of social distancing, however, in-person sessions are less possible. For many, this has raised the prospect of online therapy. For clients in need of warmth and reassurance, could this work? Studies and my experience suggests it does.

Read More Show Less
A 17-year periodical cicada. Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As many parts of the planet continue to open their doors after pandemic closures, a new pest is expected to make its way into the world. After spending more than a decade underground, millions of cicadas are expected to emerge in regions of the southeastern U.S.

Read More Show Less
"Most of this fossil fuel finance flowed to wealthier countries," the report says, noting that China (pictured), Canada, Japan, and Korea provided the most public finance for dirty energy projects from 2016 to 2018.
Kevin Frayer / Stringer / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Even after the world's largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.

Read More Show Less

Trending

An aerial view shows new vehicles that were offloaded from ships at Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics on April 26, 2020 in Wilmington, California. "Vehicles are the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in America," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. David McNew / Getty Images

Twenty-three states and Washington, DC launched a suit Wednesday to stop the Trump administration rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.

Read More Show Less