Healthy soils play an important role in regulating climate. Soil health changes depending on how it is managed. If soils are poorly managed or harmed by unsustainable agricultural practices, carbon contained in soil is released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2, contributing to climate change. Restoring degraded soil and maintaining healthy soil decreases CO2 release into the atmosphere, increases carbon storage, and helps stop climate change.
Earth’s soils contain about 2,500 gigatons of carbon, more than three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and four times the amount stored in plants and animals.Soils remove about 25 percent of the world’s fossil fuel emissions each year. A large amount of soil carbon is stored as permafrost and peat in Arctic areas and in moist areas like the subarctic lands of Northern Eurasia and North America. Soils in hot or dry areas store less carbon.
The worldwide conversion of grassland and forestland to cropland and grazing lands over the past several centuries resulted in large losses of soil carbon. Conventional agriculture has also caused soil carbon loss. “Thinking about ways to increase soil carbon storage is a really important weapon in the arsenal [against climate change],” says Ben Taylor, ecosystem ecologist and Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University.
Better land management and regenerative agricultural practices increase soil’s ability to store carbon. Storing carbon in soil is Nature’s way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It has fewer impacts on land and water, less need for energy, and lower costs. Other methods of capturing and storing carbon emissions such as biofuel-burning power plants or planting new forests to absorb carbon require too much land, water, or energy.
What you can do
Sustainable farmers and permaculturists restore soil to a healthy state. You can join them by making soil health a priority on your property.
Talk to others about the importance of taking care of soil.
Read my blog on how to create healthy soil in your garden. Every action you take in your garden matters to our climate!