soil absorbs co2

Highlights:

  • The soil around the globe could absorb 1/4th of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • Only the upper 1st meter of soil around the world contain as much carbon as much is currently in the atmosphere.
  • 40% of this could be achieved by simply leaving the soil not doing any kind of activity on it.

Restoring and protecting properly the world’s soil could absorb more than five billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. The amount is the same as much CO2 US emits annually.

The United Nations is continuously discussing climate change and the work world needs to do together in order to retain the land’s ability to absorb and store planet-warming greenhouse gases and prevent it turning from a carbon sink to a source.

A report published in the journal Nature Sustainability shows the potential of soil to absorb carbon and found it could contribute a quarter of absorption on land, if properly managed.

Just the first metre of soil around the world contains as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere, locking up the CO2 sequestered in trees as they decompose and return to the earth.

The total potential for land-based sequestration is 23.8 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent, so soil could in theory absorb 5.5 billion tonnes annually.

Most of this potential, around 40 percent, can be achieved simply by leaving existing soil alone—that is, not continuing to expand agriculture and plantation growth across the globe.


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soil to absorb carbon“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,” said Deborah Bossio, principal study author and lead soil scientist for The Nature Conservancy.

She said that soil restoration would have significant co-benefits for humanity, including improved water quality, food production and crop resilience.

“There are few trade-offs where we build soil carbon and continue to produce food,” she told AFP.

The IPCC said in August that humanity was facing tough choices between how land—Earth’s forests, wetlands, savannah and fields—is used to provide food and material and how it is used to mitigate climate change.

There is simply not enough space to feed 10 billion people by 2050 and limit catastrophic climate change, its 1,000-page study warned.


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Agriculture already contributes as much as a third of all greenhouse gas emissions and vast amounts of food are wasted, driving global inequality.

Bossio said governments needed to ensure that agricultural practices seek to provide us with more than just-food.

“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 said.

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