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What is Carbon Sequestration? What are Carbon Sinks? Why are they important?

EPS Commentary: There is some controversy among those that are interested in Carbon Offsets as to the value of Reforestation as a means of reducing Carbon in the atmosphere. In order to properly understand the importance of reforestation to reducing carbon in the atmosphere, it is important to understand the concepts of Carbon Sinks and Carbon Sequestration. The information below was taken from the EPA and provides complete analysis of the topic.

Original Source, The EPA Web Site, http://www.epa.gov/sequestration/

Carbon sequestration is the process through which agricultural and forestry practices remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The term “sinks” is also used to describe agricultural and forestry lands that absorb CO2, the most important global warming gas emitted by human activities. Agricultural and forestry practices can also release CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

New EPA Technical Report
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Potential in U.S. Forestry and Agriculture

Sequestration activities can help prevent global climate change by enhancing carbon storage in trees and soils, preserving existing tree and soil carbon, and by reducing emissions of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). For more information on the science, emissions, and reduction opportunities for these and other non-CO2 gases, please visit our non-CO2 gases page.

The Basic Science: Science

Carbon storage (sequestration) occurs in forests and soils primarily through the natural process of photosynthesis. Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is taken up through tiny openings in leaves and incorporated as carbon into the woody biomass of trees and agricultural crops. Roughly half of this biomass is carbon. Some of this carbon makes its way into soils when vegetation, litter and roots decay. Carbon in forests and soils can return to the atmosphere as CO2 when agricultural tillage practices stir up soils or when biomass decays and burns. Forests and agricultural soils can therefore act as either a net carbon sink or source. The movement of carbon in and out of trees and soils is part of the Earth’s global carbon cycle.

This section of the Web site provides a basic description overview of these carbon processes at two scales:

For more information refer to the following:

· Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about carbon sequestration

· Agricultural & forestry practices that sequester carbon and reduce other greenhouse gases

· U.S. national analysis on current sequestration rates, and the potential for additional sequestration and greenhouse gas reductions in agriculture and forestry

· Project analysis to estimate the climate benefits of agricultural and forestry projects

· International sequestration opportunities

· Environmental co-benefits of sequestration practices

· Tools and resources produced and supported by EPA, and other useful references

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Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Reforestation, , , , , , , ,

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