Carbon Sequestration Potential of Agroforestry in Temperate Regions

Carbon Sequestration Potential of Agroforestry in Temperate Regions

Definitions

Carbon sequestration is carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere through biological, chemical or physical processes. Carbon is cycled between the atmosphere, oceans, and terrestrial biosphere. The carbon cycle is one of the most important cycles of the Earth, where the carbon is recycled and reused by all the organisms of the biosphere. The five major carbon reservoirs interconnected by pathways are: the atmosphere; the oceans (contain about 50 times as much carbon as the atmosphere); the terrestrial biosphere; the sediments including fossil fuels; and the earth’s interior (mantle and crust).[1]

In the context of terrestrial carbon sequestration it is meant the process by which the carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis by the vegetation and stored as carbon in biomass and soils. The terrestrial vegetation and soil contain about three and a half time as much carbon as the atmosphere. The soil itself contains around 1.500 gigatones of organic carbon, and it is more than the total of vegetation and atmosphere together. When plants decay and agricultural areas are abandoned a great part of the carbon stored in plants and soil is released back into the atmosphere. This is the reason why good agricultural and forestry mitigation techniques and agricultural practices are needed to keep sequestrating the CO2 gas and other important GHGs directly emitted into the atmosphere by human activity and natural sources.

The sequestration of CO2 in carbon ‘sinks’ from the atmosphere, is the most valued mitigation option in agroforestry. Here sequestration is defined as increase of the carbon content in the carbon pool (in agroforestry carbon pools include tree biomass, soils and wood products) by decreasing the carbon content in the atmosphere. A carbon sink is a stock taking up carbon and is when more carbon flows into the pool than flows out of it. A stock that releases carbon is called carbon ‘source’. [2]

Potential for Carbon Sequestration

Agroforestry is a system of land management that integrates tree and shrub plantings with crops or livestock in order to generate economic, environmental and social benefits’ [3]. Wise agroforestry practices nevertheless propose more carbon sequestration than lost into the atmosphere. There are various agricultural practices for carbon sequestration, such as riparian buffers and short rotation woody crops, using cover crops such as grasses and weeds as temporary cover between agricultural crops, alleycropping, silvopastoral systems, windbreaks etc. that are linked to improvement of the land management such as conservation tillage (no-tillage), reduced soil erosion, restoring wetlands and degraded lands etc. A strategy for prevention the increase of CO2 is the preservation of existing carbon stocks for example reducing deforestation and forest fires, planting forests – afforestation and reforestation. Conserving soils is also essential in agroforestry for carbon sequestration. Soils are the


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