Carbon sinks mean lower atmospheric CO2, more fertile land
For decades now mankind has been at the fore in creating a vicious cycle with critical environmental consequences as a result. By degrading the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions, land degradation has risen. This in turn is worsening the degradation of the atmosphere. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have been increasing for some two centuries, mostly a result of human activities, spearheaded primarily by the rapid rise of industrialization. The degradation of land, however, through unviable agricultural practices also has resulted in emissions of greenhouse gases. As governments, NGOs and corporations around the globe set limits on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by automobiles, factories and power plants into the atmosphere, a way to “recycle” CO2 into the ground, carbon sequestration, has received less attention and international support. Little recognized is the fact that the world’s soils hold more organic carbon than that held by the atmosphere as CO2 and vegetation combined (see Fig. 1). Carbon sequestration is the process by which CO2 sinks (both natural and artificial) remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, primarily as plant organic matter in soils. Soil carbon sequestration is an important and immediate sink for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide and mitigating global warming and climate change. Organically managed soils can convert carbon dioxide from a greenhouse gas into a food-producing asset. Combined with sequestration in non-agricultural soil, the potential for land to hold carbon and act as a sink for greenhouse gases is unparalleled. This should help put a new value on land, the value of its capability to sequester and to literally “breathe in” the excess blanket of CO2 and help cool the planet. And when mixed with water and sun, CO2 enriches the soil, giving life to trees and vegetation, which then can generate more carbon sinks.