Carbon sink by trees on agricultural land


Photo credit: CIAT

Trees on agricultural land sink four times more carbon


Deborah Bossio: Co-author of the study and CIAT’s Director of Soil Research., CIAT

Trees grown on agricultural land significantly contribute to global carbon budgets, say authors in this recent study.

If carbon from trees grown on agricultural land was well accounted for, total carbon estimates for agricultural land would be more than four times higher than they currently are, they add.

This is good news, and getting better: between 2000 and 2010, tree cover on agricultural land increased –three percent, resulting in a 4.6 percent increase in biomass carbon globally.

Yet while the importance of carbon stored by forests is widely recognized, carbon stored by trees on agricultural land has been much ignored, authors say.

Soil carbon: benefits of sequestration

The soil organic carbon pool is enormous – estimated to be two to three timeshigher than in the atmosphere. The additional carbon that can be stored as soil organic matter is also huge – up to 1.2 Gigatons per year in top soils on agricultural lands alone – another unexploited, under-appreciated carbon sink.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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