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Changing land use helps to store additional carbon

Research into ecosystem-based solutions to climate change receives philanthropic support

A project exploring how carbon capture and storage can help limit global warming to a 1.5°C temperature rise has received philanthropic funding from One Earth, an American organisation that presents a pathway to stay below the dangerous threshold of 1.5˚C in global temperature.

Working in partnership with the University of Melbourne, researchers at the University of Exeter are looking at land management methods for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Most previous research in this area has focused on changing land use to plant additional forest and increasing production of biofuels through changes in crops. However this kind of extensive land use change is not always realistic or sustainable.

Exeter researchers have a much more detailed way of looking at land use, so can uncover more opportunities but also explore more bespoke solutions. For example, agricultural land can be combined with additional plants and trees in order to ensure food production is not impacted but carbon storage is increased.

Dr Anna Harper, Lecturer in Climate Science at the University of Exeter, is one of the project leads. She said: “So far these new so-called Nature Based Solutions (NBS) have not been evaluated in a systematic and scientifically robust way. This project will explicitly test the overall feasibility as well as biodiversity and food security linkages.

“We will be able to quantify the impacts on atmospheric CO2 and climate change, with dependencies on timing, location, and land use. Ultimately, pathways to achieving the 1.5°C goal will have more public support when they include land management that can bring about multiple co-benefits, such as sustainable forest management and silvopasture (a managed system of trees, forage plants and livestock in the same area).”

Thanks to One Earth's support, the project will provide a better understanding of the carbon-cycle response to large-scale land management interventions, identifying potential ‘restoration hotspots’ and comparing benefits of different land management practices. The results will indicate the levels of activity required to achieve 1.5°C and how feasible this is.

Date: 31 January 2020

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