Trees Are A Farmer’s Best Friend: Why Trees On Pasture Land Make Great Carbon Sinks

New data from the U.S. Forest Service indicates that mixed-use land, or so-called dynamic landscapes, offer the best method for storing terrestrial carbon in the United States. In the fight to mitigate pollution's effect on the climate, these dynamic landscapes create a way for land managers to make large carbon sinks to store atmospheric carbon for decades, if not centuries. Proper land use remains the key to vibrant carbon sinks throughout America.

The Forest Service concluded that landscapes with moderately high amounts of forest and minor portions of farmland have the best carbon storage potential, just as much as old-growth forests that take up 90 to 100 percent of the land. An area with 50 to 60 percent forest and the rest agriculture has great carbon-storing capabilities, based on measurements taken in the eastern half of the country.

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr
Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr

Ideally, landowners, land managers, and farmers would use this knowledge to establish new forests across multiple land-use areas across the globe. That means wherever humans can plant and grow trees, they should, especially near agricultural lands. Trees are critical for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by absorbing it through their leaves. This creates a carbon sink — a natural mechanism by which plants, oceans, and soil store more carbon than they release, notes Fern.

Land managers and local governments can create carbon sinks in mixed-use areas using several methods, while local agencies should encourage landowners to repurpose old farmland for use as a new-growth forest. Trees and plants should have deep roots, and pastures should have mixtures of grazing land and trees, says the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Photo Credit: Paul via Paul
Photo Credit: Paul via Flickr

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Farmers should reduce tillage and then return any crop residue left over from harvesting back into the soil. Perennial crops also help as these plants return year after year while maintaining the same root systems. These very simple methods can keep more carbon out of the atmosphere and in the land.

Carbon sinks represent a viable means of reducing atmospheric carbon all over the planet, but it isn't the only way. Help the Forest Service plant new trees to reduce the U.S. national carbon footprint by checking out The Rainforest Site.

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