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Carbon Sequestration and Storage in Soils Could Solve Global Warming

Soils contain more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere according to estimates (Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations, FAO). Increasing the amount of carbon naturally stored in soils could provide the short-term bridge to reduce the impacts of increasing carbon emissions until low-carbon and sustainable technologies can be implemented. A group called Soil Carbon, based in Australia, makes the case for soil carbon storage in a presentation available in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Mexican and Portuguese. The Soil Carbon report includes impressive photographs, such as those above, demonstrating the difference between well-managed and poorly managed soils.

The Soil Carbon report makes a good read in a powerpoint format rich in pictures, and is an easy introduction to a complex topic for the interested layman. The more scientifically oriented, and truly committed, will want to review the FAO report, Carbon Sequestration in Dryland Soils which goes much more in depth in the science and facts behind soil carbon.

The FAO report sheds some doubt on the optimism in the figures presented by Soil Carbon. For example, Soil Carbon calculates the potential for CO2 sequestration in soil by starting from the assumption that soil organic matter can be increased 1% of the total weight of the soils to a depth of 1 meter. By this calculation, Soil Carbon claims a potential increase of 47 tons of carbon per hectare. As reasonable as a simple “1 % increase” may sound, it appears not to be scientifically valid.

Carbon Sequestration

According to the FAO (FAO report, page 28): the carbon content of dryland soils is estimated to be 4 tons/hectare. Carbon content ranges between 7 tons and 24 tons in normal (non-depleted) soils, depending on the climate zone and vegetation. Studies show that non-degraded savannahs can have up to 18 tons C/hectare (top 20 cm). Based on this, one can conclude that an increased carbon sequestration of 18 – 4 = 14 tons/hectare is the most optimistic potential achievement, well under the 47 tons/hectare that Soil Carbon suggests is achievable. Nonetheless, the FAO report point out that increasing the carbon content by only 1.5 tons/hectare on 2 billion hectares of degraded lands could balance out predicted increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere due to annual emissions increases. (FAO report, page 6) This would buy time while fossil-fuel free technologies are developed.

Soil Carbon also targets exclusively the use of ruminant grazing as a soil restoration method. This is only one of many methods, which must be used in combinations depending on the local conditions. As much as the beef lovers amongst us may cheer the finding that cattle are an essential part of a healthy farming eco-system, the FAO points out that there is a large amount of disagreement about the value of ruminants in soil carbon cycling. That manure is the most efficient manner to incorporate carbon into soils is undebated. But some studies point out that feed must be grown on adjoining land, thereby depleting it, so the carbon added to one piece of land is in effect merely displaced from other land, rather than a net positive addition. The question of methane production, a 23-times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, must also be considered. Somehow humorous in the multi-faceted evaluations required to make good decisions is the statement in the FAO report that when conducting carbon audits: “it is essential to remember that the purpose of agriculture is to feed people.”

The most interesting facet of the FAO report for the non-scientist may be the discussions of using funding available from carbon offsetting to implement soil restoration projects and help farmers apply methods which benefit soil carbon levels. The additional income from carbon offsetting would help alleviate poverty, and the more productive farming possible after restoration of soils could break farmers out of the cycle of land depletion for mere survival. Although the development of accurate models to measure carbon offsets and the implementation of measures to reduce the risk of reversal of the gains present obstacles, the prospect of carbon sequestration in soils is a win-win for developed and developing nations.

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Sustainable Living, , , , , , , , ,

Saving Mono Titi Conservation Project Top Donors

Eco preservation Society would like to thank our top donors:

Charles Turner $23,000
Eco Interactive Vacations $10,000
Boyero Tours $500
Firetown $500
David Abernathy $200
Search Feature $100
Judy Orr $100
Jennifer Karlen $100
Milan Cole $100
Lisa Gray $100
Wayne Long $100
William Myers $100.00
Suzie Norvich $35
Robert Kennedy $35.00
Michael Higdon  $35.00

To Help Save Mono Titi – CLICK HERE


Related Stories:
More about the Saving Mono Titi documentary
A history of African Palm Production
Ten Reasons not to feed the monkeys.
Costa Rican company leads Resource Revolution

Other Resurces:
Saving Mono Titi Web Site
Eco Preservation Society

Kids Saving the Rainforest
ASCOMOTI

Filed under: Family Eco Travel, Reforestation, Sustainable Living, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , ,

Declining Shark Populations of Concern in Costa Rica

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Special to A.M. Costa Rica
http://www.amcostarica.com

Sharks are disappearing from the world’s oceans. The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are taken by accident each year.

Now, the global status of large sharks has been assessed by the World Conservation Union, which is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, scientific-based information source on the threat status of plants and animals.

“As a result of high and mostly unrestricted fishing pressure, many sharks are now considered to be at risk of extinction,” explained Julia Baum, a member of the union’s Shark Specialist Group

“Of particular concern is the scalloped hammerhead shark, an iconic coastal species, which will be listed on the 2008 IUCN Red List as globally endangered due to overfishing and high demand for its valuable fins in the shark fin trade,” added Ms. Baum, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Ms. Baum pointed out that fishing for sharks in international waters is unrestricted, and she supports a recently adopted United Nations resolution calling for immediate shark catch limits as well as a meaningful ban on shark finning, the practice of removing only a shark’s fins and dumping the still live but now helpless shark into the ocean to die.

Costa Rica is a major supplier to the international shark fin trade.

Research at Canada’s Dalhousie University over the past five years, conducted by Ms. Baum and the late Ransom Myers, demonstrated the magnitude of shark declines in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. All species the team looked at had declined by over 50 per cent since the early 1970s. For many large coastal shark species, the declines were much greater: tiger, scalloped hammerhead, bull and dusky shark populations have all plummeted by more than 95 per cent.

A commercial fish factory vessel was boarded this month by Costa Rican officials because they said it was involved in illegal fishing in the protected area of Isla del Coco. However, investigators had to let the 25-person crew go because there was uncertainty in the law regarding this kind of activity. The crew was seeking tuna but sharks, including hammerheads for which the waters around the island are famous are likely victims, too.

The issue still is being discussed in prosecutorial circles.

Shark Finning in Costa Rica (Warning: This video is disturbing)

Filed under: Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Costa Rica’s Mysterious Mangroves – A Treasured and Exotic Habitat

by Richard Garrigues

In the nebulous zone between high and low tide, where freshwater meets saltwater and the ground is neither liquid nor solid, grow the mangroves.

Inhabitants of inter-tidal zones throughout the tropics and subtropics, mangroves are a most curious collection of plants. It is easy to make the erroneous assumption that the different kinds of mangrove trees are closely related species adapted to the unique conditions in which they grow. Even their English common names (red mangrove, black mangrove, white mangrove, buttonwood mangrove, etc.) lend to the idea that these are merely different species of the same plant family, as if they were maples or oaks.

In reality, the mangroves are a wonderful example of convergent evolution—a situation in which totally unrelated organisms have evolved certain similarities simply because those are the characteristics best suited for making use of a particular resource. And in this case the resource is a place where a plant might grow if it can overcome the two major difficulties faced by mangroves: the salinity of the sea water which saturates the ground they grow in and the absence of oxygen in that same saturated mud.

In Costa Rica there are seven species of mangrove trees from four very different plant families: the red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle and R. harrisonii, Rhizophoraceae), the black mangroves (Avicennia germinans and A. bicolor, Verbenaceae), the tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae, Theaceae), the white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa, Combretaceae), and the buttonwood mangrove (Conocarpus erectus, Combretaceae). In Costa Rica, any and all of these plants are called mangle (man-gley) and the association in which they grow a manglar.

Of the mangroves found in Costa Rica, the red mangrove is the most easily recognized with its striking aerial prop roots, which often branch one or more times before reaching the ground. The primary function of these roots is not to support the tree but to aid in the aeration of the plant’s sap system.

The black mangrove, and to some extent the white mangrove, cope with the lack of air in the mucky substrate by developing vertical extensions from their roots which stick above the soil level and (at low tide) accomplish oxygen exchange. The tea mangrove has pronounced buttresses which act as aerators. The buttonwood mangrove effectively avoids this problem by growing on the back edges or higher ground within a mangrove swamp, thus reducing the likelihood of having the soil around its roots supersaturated except at extreme high tides.

Mangroves have developed various ways to deal with the problem of high salt concentrations in the water around them. Some species secrete salt from their roots and/or leaves. Pacific coast black mangroves can be observed in the dry season with salt crystals along the outer edges of their leaves (secretion of salt through the leaves happens throughout the year, but is not usually observed in the rainy season because the rain washes off the salt).

In some mangroves, such as the red mangrove, salt is stored in the older leaves which soon fall off the tree. And in other species, it appears that salt is simply tolerated in much higher levels than is common in most plants.

As a result of the rather severe conditions where mangroves grow, there is not much plant diversity. Correspondingly, the animal life associated with mangroves is not nearly as diverse as it is in other lowland habitats in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, what mangrove swamps may lack in numbers of species they make up for with numbers of individuals.

At certain times of the year the tops of mangrove trees are filled with nesting birds. In the Tempisque River, the Isla de Pájaros, or Bird Island, is an impressive example of this phenomenon. Each year hundreds of Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, Anhingas, and Neotropical Cormorants reproduce on this protected patch of mid-river mangroves.

In the mangrove of Damas Island you will find White Faced Monkey which many a visitor will have a close encounter. But please, do not feed the monkeys.

Part of the reason for the concentration of nesting and roosting birds in the mangroves could be that it serves as a sanctuary from terrestrial and climbing predators. The bases of the trees are under water almost nearly of the time and even when they are exposed by receding tides, the soft mud that surrounds them is a deterrent to many creatures.

Below the water’s surface in areas where mangroves grow one can find a high diversity of life forms. Among the mangrove’s root systems many marine organisms live or spend a portion of their lives. Such creatures include algae, corals, barnacles, sponges, oysters, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, octopi, and fishes. The importance of mangroves to the health of the marine ecosystem is immeasurable.

Unfortunately, in Costa Rica and the rest of the world, mangrove forests are being destroyed and their sites converted to fish pens, rice paddies, salt-drying ponds, cattle pasture, tourist developments and human settlements. Mangrove wood makes good fuel and excellent charcoal, but over-harvesting has contributed to their demise. Additionally, the red mangrove is an important source of tannin (used in processing leather), but the stripping of the bark to get the tannin kills the individual trees.

All mangroves in Costa Rica are protected by law, but there is not always someone around to enforce the law. Nevertheless, there are still large areas of mangroves lining estuaries and mouths of rivers and streams along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Mangrove development is not as common on the Caribbean coast, because there is little variation in the height of the tides, but one area where some very tall red mangroves can be seen is along the extensive canal system between Limón and Tortuguero.

Filed under: Family Eco Travel, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ten Reasons Not to Feed the Monkeys

You might find feeding the monkeys (and other wild animals) to be a thrilling experience, but you are not doing the monkeys a favor. In fact, you are actually harming them. Here’s why:

1.Monkeys are highly susceptible to diseases from human hands. They can die from bacteria transferred off your hand that has no ill effect on you.
2.Migration to human-populated areas to be fed increases the risk of dog attacks and road accidents.
3.Irregular feeding leads to an aggressive behavior towards humans and other species.
4.Contrary to the stereotype, bananas are not the preferred food of monkeys in the wild. Bananas, especially those containing pesticides, can be upsetting to the monkeys’ delicate digestive system and cause serious dental problems that can lead to eventual death.
5.Feeding creates a dangerous dependency on humans that diminishes the monkeys’ survival abilities.
6.Feeding interferes with the monkeys’ natural habits and upsets the balance of their lifestyle centered on eating wild fruits, seeds, small animals, and insects.
7.Contact with humans facilitates poaching and the trade in illegal wildlife.
8.Pregnant females who are fed nothing but bananas during their pregnancy will not give birth to healthy infants. The babies will be malnourished, or never develop to term, and die before birth.
9.Monkeys need to travel an average of 17 kilometers each day to be in good physical condition. If they know that food is available in a particular location, they will not leave that area.
10.Not only do we pass on diseases to animals when we feed them by hand, but they can pass diseases to us as well.

The monkeys do not realize any of this. Now YOU do. Don’t facilitate the extinction of one of Nature’s most amazing creatures for your own pleasure or financial gain. Please help save the monkeys by reporting anyone feeding the monkeys: 777-2592. If you are feeding the monkeys, you now know why you should stop. If you don’t stop we owe it to the monkeys to publish your name with the local media.

Text Courtesy of Jennifer Rice PhD
President
Kids Saving The Rainforest
Tel. 506.777.2592 Fax 506.777.1954
contact@kidssavingtherainforest.org
http://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org

Filed under: Family Eco Travel, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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