New global study identifies opportunities to increase carbon storage on land to mitigate climate change

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A new study, “The global potential for increasing carbon storage on land”, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), provides a series of geospatial maps that enhance our understanding of the global gap between current and potential terrestrial carbon storage, and offer a framework for action to realize the full potential of terrestrial carbon storage as a natural climate solution. . The study comes at a good time, following the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III, which emphasizes the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions to limit future warming, and highlights the significant mitigation potential of natural and managed ecosystems given their potential to remove additional carbon from the atmosphere.

“From forests to soils, terrestrial ecosystems store huge amounts of carbon on a global scale and are capable of storing even more,” said Dr. Wayne Walker, Carbon Program Director at Woodwell Climate Research Center and lead author of the study. climate crisis means understanding how much storage space is available, where that space is in the world, and what actions can be taken in those places to take advantage of the opportunity they present as quickly as possible. This study provides the data and the conceptual framework to do so.”

Using the new global maps, researchers have quantified the unrealized potential carbon storage aboveground and belowground woody biomass and soil Organic carbon and found 287 petagrams of untapped carbon storage, 78% of which is available in woody biomass and the remaining 22% in soils, in tropical, temperate and boreal climatic zones. These results reveal the significant potential for the expansion of carbon capture globally through the restoration, improved management and maintenance of forests and other woody systems. Improved management of existing forests alone could provide more than 75% of untapped potential, the majority (71%) of which is concentrated in tropical ecosystems.

“Forest stewardship represents the greatest opportunity to achieve near-term carbon removal and storage, and the urgency of the climate crisis demands that we prioritize these efforts,” said Peter Ellis, director of the science of natural climate solutions at The Nature Conservancy and study co-author. “Our research shows that after safeguarding the land needed for food production and human habitation, better management of forests and other woody systems – especially degraded forests across the global tropics – holds enormous potential. climate mitigation.”

Although the study results indicate the significant opportunity the earth offers as a natural climate solution based on what we know now, this work cannot stop there.

“We anticipate that these results will prove useful for many countries, as natural climate solutions feature prominently in achieving Paris Agreement commitments in most countries; however, these results need to be combined with a series of other insights to effectively prioritize and implement natural climate solutions,” said Bronson Griscom, senior director of natural climate solutions at Conservation International. “For example, we need to consider spatially explicit predicted climate conditions, costs and implications for local human well-being, as we work with stakeholders to prioritize and design restoration efforts.”

The IPCC report and new study identify land-based natural climate solutions as important for driving large-scale greenhouse gas emission reductions and enhanced removals (IPCC WGIII, 2022). These efforts, including the maintenance, management, and restoration of Earth systems, require globally consistent frameworks to accurately address current gaps and inform landscape-level planning and mitigation solutions. targeted. This study presents a critical data set for the realization of these efforts.

Nature-based carbon removal can help protect us from a warming planet

More information:
The global potential for increased carbon storage on land, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2111312119

Provided by Woodwell Climate Research Center

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