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 climate change has been right at our feet all along, according to a new study revealing that soil represents up 25% of the total global potential for natural climate solutions (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 catalogued, the study – led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy alongside Conservation International, Woods Hole Research Centre, University of Aberdeen, Yale University and the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences(KIB/CAS) – provided a timely reminder in this critical 'super year' for nature 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 Sustainabilityentitled "The role of soil carbon in natural climate solutions". the research also argued that a lack of clarity to date regarding the full scale of this opportunity and how to best capitalise on it has restricted investment.
"While momentum continues to build behind the role nature can play in the global response to climate change, soils have historically enjoyed less of the limelight as a 'natural climate solution' compared with, say, forests or mangroves. Our study is designed to redress this situation," said lead author Dr. Deborah Bossio, The Nature Conservancy's Lead Soil Scientist. "By highlighting the full carbon-mitigation potential of soils across a range of landscapes, but also – crucially – exploring practical mechanisms that already exist for accelerating the uptake of these comparatively untapped approaches, including their integration into burgeoning carbon markets. This is particularly important for agriculture sector, for which more effective management of soils represents the single biggest contribution this industry can make towards mitigating climate change."
"Soils and improved soil management have a tremendous potential to store carbon. Agroforestry, and more generally just including more trees in the agricultural landscape, has been shown to be one of the most important approaches to increasing soil organic carbon with substantial global mitigation potential. In addition, highlighting the complimentary beneficial impacts available from improved agricultural production practices aimed at improving soil health, both the increased on-farm bio-diversity and livelihood diversification can enhance farm and ecosystem resilience," said co-author Dr. Robert Zomer of the KIB/CAS.
Demonstrating that soil carbon represents up to 25% of total global NCS potential, the paper also estimated that 40% of this potential will be delivered by protecting existing soil carbon reserves, while 60% will come from rebuilding stocks depleted by practices such as over-intensive arable agriculture and the draining of peatlands.
Breaking these data down further, the researchers also showed the share of total NCS potential that soil represents across various, climate-critical landscapes – from a relatively diminutive 9% of forest mitigation potential, through 47% for agricultural lands and grasslands, right up to 72% of total carbon sequestration potential in wetland landscapes.
The study also showed that agroforestry systems can have significant positive impacts on soil organic carbon across specific geographies. Moreover, the majority of other soil carbon pathways tend to be "no regrets" practices that deliver soil fertility, climate resilience and provide other ecosystem services alongside climate mitigation.
"We already know that nature has a powerful role in mitigating runaway climate change," said Prof. XU Jianchu from KIB/CAS, who was not associated with the study. “This study showed the NCS provide pathways for sustainable development that have both climate mitigation and livelihood improvement potential. It is essential that soil health become a central pillar of agricultural production, not just for climate mitigation, but also for both environmental and food security."
When doctoral candidate and entomologist extraordinaire Brendon Boudinot delivered his exit seminar...
Doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot getting ready to present his exit seminar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ant specialist Brendon Boudinot recommends one of his dog-eared textbooks. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Brendon Boudinot tells the crowd we all share a common ancestor. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Okay, we don't maybe generally care about the abdomen and maybe we don't care that much about insect genitalia, but I care about insect genitalia and a lot of insects do, too."--Brendon Boudinot (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Text of Brendon Boudinot's PowerPoint slides onto his face. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Brendon Boudinot drew acclaim, admiration and applause at his exit seminar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Online training courses and webinars available from
UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
This spring if you are looking for options to obtain your continuing education units (CEUs) and not sure where to get them, why not check out the online options that the UC Statewide IPM Program (UC IPM) has to offer. For license and certificate holders from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) with last names beginning with the letters A through L, 2020 will be the year to renew.
UC IPM currently offers 16 online courses for DPR credit. Many of the courses are also accredited by the California Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB), Certified Crop Advisor (CCA), Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (WCISA), or Arizona Department of Agriculture.
If you are looking for CEUs in the Laws and Regulations category, check out these courses:
- Proper Pesticide Use to Avoid Illegal Residues (2.0 Pesticide Laws & Regs)
- Proper Selection, Use, and Removal of Personal Protective Equipment (1.5 Pesticide Laws & Regs)
- Providing IPM in Schools and Child Care Settings(1.0 Other and 0.5 Pesticide Laws & Regs)
Some of our courses do require a fee and are being offered at an early-bird price through October 31st. These courses can be purchased individually, or they can be purchased as a 4-course bundle for a special price of $85—a total discount of $20 versus purchasing each course separately.
In addition to offering online courses, UC IPM also hosts a monthly webinar series sponsored by
the Citrus Research Board. The UC Ag Experts Talk webinar series is designed for growers and pest control advisers. It includes presentations on various pest management and horticultural topics, primarily for citrus and avocados. The next webinar will be held on April 8th from 3 PM until 4 PM with Dr. Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Riverside Department of Entomology and Extension Specialist, speaking about citricola scale. This webinar has been approved for one hour of Other CEUs from DPR and 1 hour of IPM units from CCA. Registration is currently open. View past webinars on the YouTube UC Ag Expert Talk Playlist. CEUs are only available for attending the live webinar.
DPR always encourages license and certificate holders to avoid the last-minute rush and renew early to ensure your license will be renewed by January 1st. Take advantage of UC IPM's online courses and webinar series to get a jump start on your renewal today!
citricola scale webinar
COVID-19 does not currently pose major threats to overall global food security because adequate stores of staples — like wheat and rice — remain available. But the sustainability of California specialty crops may face greater hurdles, reported Laura Poppick in Scientific American.
Poppick spoke with two UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) scientists for perspective on the future of California agriculture considering the market and production constraints posed by measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Everybody is scrambling to figure out what to do,” said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of UC ANR's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. “There's just a lot of disruption.”
Specialty products — such as some fruits and organic produce grown on smaller-scale farms — are often sold to restaurants and farmers markets, many of which are now closed or have reduced service, rather than directly to the grocery stores that are still operating. Even if these farmers are able to continue working, they may have limited places to sell their goods, the article said.
Strawberries are another crop likely to be affected. Laborers picking strawberries typically work more closely than is advisable to prevent the spread of the virus, said Mark Bolda, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor based in Watsonville. He said farmers are already making plans to spread workers between rows.
Strawberries, however, hit prime ripeness within a narrow window of just two to three days and must be picked quickly, Bolda says. Spacing workers may slow picking, and, "being slower is expensive."
While I do enjoy the company of my family and others here at home during the shelter in place order, nevertheless sitting around on my can all day just writing, reading and talking on the phone isn't exactly what I signed up for folks.
Still, it's a time to be productive, and I've had some calls with resulting quotes in articles in the press.
The first from Laura Poppin in the Scientific American concerns what berry producers are doing to adapt to the restrictions of social distancing and virus transmission mitigation. As expected, growers have adapted their operations:
The other is a lengthy article by ag writer Tim Hearden from the Western Farm Press about the what the way forward for the California strawberry industry might look like, and quotes extensively from my review of the book "Wilted" by Dr. Julie Guthman:
Nice to see interviews here with local grower Peter Navarro and fellow scientist Steve Fennimore.