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Can California redwoods help solve global warming? 

Paul Rogers, EAST BAY TIMES
California’s ancient redwood forests aren’t just majestic and among the oldest living things on Earth — a new study finds they are a particularly potent weapon against global warming.
The towering trees remove and store more carbon from the atmosphere per acre than any other forests on the planet, including tropical rain forests, researchers found in a discovery that could influence everything from logging rules to how parks are preserved as the state grapples with climate change.
“The story of the carbon is huge,” said Robert Van Pelt, a scientist at Humboldt State University who helped lead the research. “The carbon part of a redwood may be more important than the lumber part in the coming decades.”
Scientists have long known that redwood trees, because they can live more than 1,000 years and grow to immense heights, are able to capture significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They do it with photosynthesis, the natural process in which plants use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to sugars that help them grow, while also releasing oxygen.
But a team of researchers from Humboldt State and the University of Washington painstakingly set out to measure exactly how much carbon the massive trees, some of which tower more than 300 feet high and were growing during the Roman Empire, are sucking out of the atmosphere.
Starting in 2009, the team, working with researchers from UC Berkeley and Save the Redwoods League, chose 11 forested areas between Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park near the Oregon border, and UC’s Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur, about 500 miles away.
Forests in the northern part of Jedediah Smith Redwoods park stored 2,600 metric tons of carbon per hectare, an area of about 2.5 acres, the study found. That’s more than twice the 1,000 metric tons estimated for ancient conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest and the towering eucalyptus forests in Australia and Tasmania.
Read more at: Can California redwoods help solve global warming? – EastBayTimes.com

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Soil as carbon storehouse: New weapon in climate fight? 

Judith D. Schwartz, ENVIRONMENT 360

In [Holistic Planned Grazing], livestock are managed as a tool for large-scale land restoration, mimicking the herding and grazing patterns of wild ruminants that coevolved with grassland ecosystems. Animals are moved so that no plants are overgrazed, and grazing stimulates biological activity in the soil.

May, 2014. The degradation of soils from unsustainable agriculture and other development has released billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But new research shows how effective land restoration could play a major role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change.
In the 19th century, as land-hungry pioneers steered their wagon trains westward across the United States, they encountered a vast landscape of towering grasses that nurtured deep, fertile soils.
Today, just three percent of North America’s tallgrass prairie remains. Its disappearance has had a dramatic impact on the landscape and ecology of the U.S., but a key consequence of that transformation has largely been overlooked: a massive loss of soil carbon into the atmosphere. The importance of soil carbon — how it is leached from the earth and how that process can be reversed — is the subject of intensifying scientific investigation, with important implications for the effort to slow the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
According to Rattan Lal, director of Ohio State University’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, the world’s cultivated soils have lost between 50 and 70 percent of their original carbon stock, much of which has oxidized upon exposure to air to become CO2. Now, armed with rapidly expanding knowledge about carbon sequestration in soils, researchers are studying how land restoration programs in places like the former North American prairie, the North China Plain, and even the parched interior of Australia might help put carbon back into the soil.
Read more at: Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight? by Judith D. Schwartz: Yale Environment 360

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Carbon farming: hope for a hot planet

Brian Barth, MODERN FARMER
The phrase is suddenly on the lips of every major player in the sustainable food movement.
Michael Pollan deemed it agriculture’s “secret weapon” in a December op-ed for the Washington Post. Bill McKibben, in his praise for an upcoming book on the topic, described carbon farming as “a powerful vision,” one that he hopes will “presage major changes in our species’ use of the land.” Paul Hawken went so far as to call it “the foundation of the future of civilization,” with potential to “surpass the productivity of industrial agriculture.
”Why all the hubbub? And, for that matter, what exactly is it about?
Carbon farming is agriculture’s answer to climate change. Simply put, the goal is to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere, where the element causes global warming, and store it in the soil, where carbon aids the growth of plants. The principle is pretty straightforward—the practice, not so much.
Most folks understand that burning fossil fuels puts carbon that was once buried deep beneath the earth into the atmosphere, turning the planet into one big greenhouse in the process. But in addition to petroleum underground, the soil on the surface of the earth contains a sizable store of carbon in the form of organic matter—the stuff that environmentally aware farmers and gardeners are always striving to maximize. Plants add organic matter to the soil when they decompose, and photosynthesis, by definition, removes carbon dioxide from the air and pumps it through the roots of plants and into the soil.
Concern over climate change may have thrust the concept of carbon farming into the limelight—25 countries pledged to pursue it during the December climate talks in Paris—but ranchers like Gabe Brown, who raises livestock and an array of crops on 5,000 acres outside Bismarck, North Dakota, have preached its virtues for decades. “All soil biology eats carbon, and that’s how nutrients cycle,” explains Brown of the network of microbes and fungi and earthworms underground. “Farmers need to think of carbon as their fertilizer, because it’s what drives a healthy system.”
Read more at: Carbon Farming: Hope for a Hot Planet – Modern Farmer

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Volunteers combat climate change by planting redwood trees near Cazadero

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A rapidly melting ice sheet in Greenland. Unprecedented flooding in northern England. A record wildfire season in the western United States.

The most recent headlines involving climate change can turn even the most optimistic environmentalist into a Debbie Downer. But on Friday, more than 50 volunteers set out to do their small part in trying to curb global warming by planting 1,300 redwood seedlings on property in the hills north of Cazadero.

The annual event, which has been conducted by Forest Unlimited since 1997, will continue Saturday on private property in the Gualala Ranch Association area near the south fork of the Gualala River. Over the past 19 years, the Forestville nonprofit group has planted about 28,000 trees around Sonoma County.

The native redwoods are an optimal tree to plant along the Sonoma Coast. They are hard to burn, an asset during wildfire season, and they can resist drought. Coastal fog can provide up to 40 percent of a redwood’s water needs as it condenses into precipitation on its needles, according to one study.

Old redwood forests also sequester three times more carbon above the ground than other trees, according to the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. The initiative found that two mature redwoods can remove about 1,600 tons of carbon from the earth’s atmosphere, equaling how much an average American produces in their lifetime through carbon dioxide emissions.

“Forests provide us with oxygen. They sequester carbon. They provide us clean water. They provide us materials for our living,” volunteer James Haug of Sebastopol said.

Read more at: Volunteers combat climate change by planting redwood trees | The Press Democrat

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How California’s cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions works

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
California’s cap-and-trade program, established by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, promotes the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The program created one of the largest carbon credit markets in the world and one of two in the United States.
It sets a collective emissions cap on about 450 of the state’s largest polluters, including power generators, refineries and cement plants, which emit more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year, and requires them to obtain an allowance or a carbon offset for their emissions. The cap and the pool of allowances decline each year, while offsets — based on projects that sequester carbon in forests, for example — can cover up to 8 percent of their emissions.
The program also sets up a complex protocol for forest owners to establish offsets they can sell to polluters subject to the cap. Each offset represents 1 metric ton of greenhouse gas removed from the atmosphere by trees, which must be sustained for 100 years.
Source: How California’s cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions works | The Press Democrat

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Under California cap-and-trade program, North Coast forests turn carbon uptake into cash

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but a nearly 75,000-acre swath of redwood and fir forests blanketing the wildlands of Sonoma and Mendocino counties is generating millions of dollars as it contributes to California’s ambitious campaign to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
In a reversal of forest profiteering that dates back to the mid-1800s, the trees are making landowners money by staying upright and growing fast on damp coastal hills where vegetation thrives and few humans set foot.
The Conservation Fund, a Virginia-based nonprofit, has since 2008 sold more than $36 million worth of a new forest commodity called carbon credits, also known as carbon offsets, which represent 4 million metric tons of greenhouse gases sequestered, or stored, by forests that in turn must be sustained for 100 years.
The Conservation Fund’s forests are among the top two or three producers of forest-based carbon offsets in California’s carbon cap-and-trade program, said Chris Kelly, California program director for the group.
More than $2 million in credits have already sold for the former Preservation Ranch, a 19,645-acre property in northwestern Sonoma County that once was the focus of an intense environmental controversy.
Purchased by the fund for $24.5 million in public and private funding in 2013 — in the largest conservation deal by acreage in county history — the ranch, renamed Buckeye Forest, is forever protected against a future that once included a proposed 1,800 acre forest-to-vineyard conversion. Those plans aroused environmentalists’ anger and would have eliminated more than 300,000 trees.
Read more at: Under California cap-and-trade program, North Coast forests turn | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Climate change to heighten flood, fire threat in Sonoma County

Climate change to heighten flood, fire threat in Sonoma County

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County residents who live in rural places prone to flooding and those in urban areas who are unable to afford protection against rising heat will be among those who suffer the most if the extreme conditions predicted to come with climate change materialize as expected, county officials said Wednesday.
The stark message headlined a day-long conference at Sonoma State University about adapting to the world’s changing climate and the increasingly unpredictable weather it generates.
The impact of more wildfires, rising sea levels, heavier periods of rainfall and longer dry spells will be widespread, scientists and public officials said Wednesday, affecting everything from the cost and availability of food to water supply, wildlife habitat and public safety.
The most vulnerable residents in Sonoma County are expected to be those living along the lower Russian River, where flooding would be more frequent; those who live in coastal communities or low-lying areas subject to rising ocean tides; and disadvantaged urban neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, the Sonoma Valley and elsewhere, where air conditioning is rare and older, under-insulated homes would offer little defense against extreme heat, said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin.
“We need in the future to find out how we can help these communities adapt and survive,” she said.
Gorin’s comments kicked off a forum focused on climate adaptation at the local level, a first-of-its kind gathering in the county of scientists, conservationists, government planners, policymakers and others, organizers said.
Read more via Forum: Climate change to heighten flood, fire threat | The Press Democrat.

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Compost helps rangeland lock up carbon

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The rolling green pastures west of Petaluma where Hank Corda stood last week in blue jeans and a camouflage ball cap are not an obvious location to mount a worldwide offensive against climate change.
No factories billow smoke on the 850-acre ranch that’s been in Corda’s family for a century, nor do many vehicles traverse the narrow road. One might surmise the only gross polluters here are the black-and-white dairy cows that graze the property.
In fact, rangelands are a major source of carbon loss through the farming techniques used for harvesting and soil management. A major key to solving the problem, researchers contend, is in the soil on a hillside below Corda’s ranch home.
There, workers dumped compost made of manure and green landscape waste to trap carbon dioxide in the ground and also absorb it from the air. The ranch, which is at the head of San Antonio Creek, is one of three test sites for a novel “carbon-farming” program that researchers say could dramatically lower greenhouse-gas emissions and blunt the effects of climate change, but only if it can be replicated on a mass scale.
The Marin Carbon Project has drawn attention from scientists around the world and, closer to home, from agricultural producers in neighboring counties. It has also caught the attention of Sacramento lawmakers, including Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who was expected to introduce legislation Monday to expand the program in California.
Advocates say if compost was applied to just 5 percent of California’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s farm and forestry industries.
Read more via Cleaning up with compost | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , Leave a comment on Tree growth never slows : Biggest trees accumulate more carbon than younger siblings

Tree growth never slows : Biggest trees accumulate more carbon than younger siblings

conifersJeff Tollefson, NATURE
Many foresters have long assumed that trees gradually lose their vigour as they mature, but a new analysis suggests that the larger a tree gets, the more kilos of carbon it puts on each year.
“The trees that are adding the most mass are the biggest ones, and that holds pretty much everywhere on Earth that we looked,” says Nathan Stephenson, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey in Three Rivers, California, and the first author of the study, which appears today in Nature1. “Trees have the equivalent of an adolescent growth spurt, but it just keeps going.”
The scientific literature is chock-full of studies that focus on forests’ initial growth and their gradual move towards a plateau in the amount of carbon they store as they reach maturity2. Researchers have also documented a reduction in growth at the level of individual leaves in older trees3.
In their study, Stephenson and his colleagues analysed reams of data on 673,046 trees from 403 species in monitored forest plots, in both tropical and temperate areas around the world. They found that the largest trees gained the most mass each year in 97% of the species, capitalizing on their additional leaves and adding ever more girth high in the sky.
via Tree growth never slows : Nature News & Comment.