According to Michigan State University experts, an integrated approach to land management techniques in the United States can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere significantly more than previous predictions based on separate approaches. Their findings were published in the journal Global Change Biology on May 31.
“In an either-or scenario, using solely land management or bioenergy turns out to be short-sighted,” said Phil Robertson, a University Distinguished Professor of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station. “We find potential carbon dioxide storage capacity levels that neither strategy alone can achieve when we combine them.”
Researchers are now investigating how combining these practices could lower carbon dioxide levels, which are critical for keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius by 2100.
It has long been recognized that land management that naturally captures more carbon dioxide in soils, trees, and natural areas has the potential to reduce emissions. Bioenergy employs plant-based fuels to power cars with ethanol or electricity, and the carbon dioxide released during production can be geologically stored or buried underground.
Management strategies are known to reduce or trap greenhouse emissions in crops, grazing pastures, and forests were assigned to different parts of the US landscape by Robertson and colleagues from Colorado State University and the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. Reforestation, forest and grassland management, agriculture strategies such as cover crops and no-till, and bioenergy production on non-food-growing lands were all covered. Many of these activities also have other advantages, such as bettering soil health, biodiversity, and water quality.
Robertson, who holds joint positions in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the College of Natural Science, stated, “We anticipated there would be some advantage to an integrated strategy, but we were shocked at just how significant it could be.” “A 50% increase in the capability for land management improvements to trap carbon dioxide is significant, especially given the absence of other inexpensive choices.”
“We’re excited to learn more about this method and refine our understanding,” Robertson said. “However, for the time being, we’re optimistic that an integrated approach combining bioenergy and sophisticated agriculture, forest, and grazing land management can give substantially more climate advantages than previously realised.”