What's the problem with the current system?
Traditionally, people have pitted agriculture against nature. With our increasing global demands for food, we've needed to increase production quickly—this has come at the cost of natural biodiversity and has lead to chronic degradation of soil quality (of which carbon is a key component). So, for decades, conservation and agriculture have seemed at odds.
But if we consider how agriculture and natural biodiversity can work together to enhance carbon storage, and how belowground carbon can promote both agriculture and nature, we realize there is a cycle that can be tapped to reverse our climate crisis.
These are the ABCs of the system: agriculture, biodiversity (in nature), and carbon storage. Plants are the bridge that make this cycle work—and trees especially are efficient at carbon capture.
What happens when you add a tree?
A tree provides many benefits to a landscape, both aboveground and belowground. Among these benefits include: purifying the air, providing cooling shade, improving soil hydrology, increasing nutrient cycling, creating soil, stabilizing soil from floods and winds, enhancing resilience to disease by supporting biodiversity, and sequestering carbon in its trunk and drawing carbon into the soil.
What does a leaf do?
It's time to rethink what a leaf does. It's not just a food-making component of a tree. A leaf is like a solar panel that can capture water, filter the air, and help draw down carbon. It can play a major role in our climate solution.
Globally, the plant-soil cycle moves ~50 gigatons of carbon every few weeks, about the same amount of carbon that humans emit in a year. This land cycle is tightly balanced but can be enhanced rather than disturbed by our global agriculture.
We can enhance capture and decrease loss from the land cycle. This represents a tremendous opportunity to build increased resilience to extreme climates and drawdown carbon into soil storage to reverse global warming, while providing healthy food, ecosystem, and livelihoods.
Do all trees work the same way?
Trees are surprisingly diverse, whether that's between species (a palm tree versus a pine tree) or within species (there are at least 600 types of oaks, with each type containing thousands of genetic variations).
Gene and genomic studies show that tree are continuing to evolve, especially in response to climate change. This is a good news for agro-ecosystem regeneration and restoration, because these differences provide broad resilience to the unpredictability of climate change.
In other words, while some trees struggle to survive under fluctations in climate and disease resistance, others of the same species may flourish in the same setting. This reduces risk for farmers and investors.
Beyond the basics
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