Soil carbon sequestration study begins

Public lands as carbon sinks ?

We’ve spoken of the potential for our public lands to act as carbon sinks.

When you think about public lands and the value that these places have to serve our efforts to curb global climate change I’d like you to consider a new idea that is as old as dirt ~ passive restoration. Yes, I’m suggesting that part of the answer might be to remove our footprint on those places we can – and in doing so – let the land catch it’s breath.

Just as trees draw CO2 out of the atmosphere, so does the life of soil and other healthy plant communities.  In fact, even in places as arid as the Mojave desert, researchers have found that healthy, undisturbed living-soils may draw as much carbon out of the atmosphere as temperate forests !  Can you imagine ? Resting the land from soil disturbing activities that degrade living-soils and remove vegetation, precluding the living carbon from being recycled back into the soil, ~ preserving our natural environmental heritage ~ may actually be an important strategy in mitigating climate change – a way to actually and directly take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Perhaps these ideas will be considered in the study recently announced concerning sagebrush communities :

Soil carbon sequestration study beginsCasper Star Tribune

Scientists believe increasing the carbon in soils — a process known as soil carbon sequestration — may help reduce the rise of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere that contribute to global warming

Regeneration of ungrazed sagebrush steppe

The photo below was taken on Nov. 18 on a hillside that in late August was dusty, brown, apparently dead, but not grazed by cows. It is about a 2 by 3 foot area just below a sagebrush (not shown) in the Bannock Range south of Pocatello.

Where cattle have not destroyed the structure of the soil, cool weather and rain quickly brings an amazing proliferation of moss, lichens, and sprouting plants. Since the 18th there has been the first cold snap, and the area is probably frozen, but it will serve to collect and retain moisture, stop erosion, repel invaders like cheatgrass next spring and summer. No doubt by August 2008 it will again look dusty, brown and dead, perhaps not terribly different from cowed out country.

Similar photos could have been taken under most sagebrush and bitterbrush plants on the hillside.

Photo copyright Ralph Maughan. Nov. 18, 2007.