Forests and wood products are powerful tools to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. (Click to view a larger version)
Trees do plenty of work to sequester carbon on their own, but many forests are not as healthy as they should be due to fire suppression and climate change. This can leave trees vulnerable to large scale insect damage, fire or drought, and much of the carbon stored by forests is lost to the atmosphere as trees die.
The U.S. Forest Service is committed to the storage of carbon using wood products through the green building and wood products strategy. This strategy involves putting people to work in rural communities, enhancing resiliency of our ecosystems, and sequestering carbon by promoting the use of wood products in large building construction. Read more »
Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society (with net) examines wild bees along with participants at the Lockeford Plant Materials Center’s Open House in April 2015. Photo by Amber Kerr.
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.”
There are many ways that farmers can use plant cover to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To learn climate-smart practices, farmers can turn to resources like USDA’s Plant Materials Center in Lockeford, California (CAPMC) which is one of 25 PMCs nationwide. Established in the 1930’s to help with plant-based tools to combat the Dust Bowl, the PMCs test, develop, and deploy plant mixtures and cultivars to solve conservation challenges. These challenges include soil erosion, water and air pollution, riparian degradation, loss of wildlife habitat – and now, climate change. Read more »
50,000 acres of rangeland in North and South Dakota have permanent protection when enrolled into a carbon offset program through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. These offsets will be sold on the voluntary market. Photo credit: Scott Bauer.
Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like clean air and water, and wildlife habitat—help more private landowners get conservation on the ground. Markets attract non-Federal funding to conservation, complement USDA’s work with agricultural producers, and can yield natural resource improvement at a lower cost to other approaches.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a Federal leader in supporting the development of environmental markets, largely through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Among CIG recipients are one of the earliest and most successful water quality trading programs in Ohio’s Great Miami River watershed and the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program, a recipient of the U.S. Water Prize this year. Also through CIG, USDA hosted an event in November 2014 celebrating a first-of-its-kind transaction—the purchase by Chevrolet of carbon credits generated on ranch lands in North Dakota. Read more »
Arkansas Rice Growers implement precise water management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing poly pipe and alternate wetting and drying. Photo credit: Adam Chambers.
Imagine a rice farmer in Arkansas altering his water management techniques to deliver water more efficiently and use fewer days of flooding, allowing for more precise water and nutrient management while maintaining consistent yields. After a decision by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), in addition to improving water quality and reducing water use and nutrient input costs, that Arkansas farmer now has the option of selling carbon credits to large regulated emitters in California.
In 2012, California put in place a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most aggressive climate change programs in the world. Last week’s groundbreaking vote by CARB adopted the first crop-based agricultural offset protocol, designed to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from rice production. Methane and nitrous oxide are potent greenhouse gases emitted through the cultivation and fertilization of rice fields. Read more »
A truck is filled with wood chips as part of the process of turning wood into energy.
An industry that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase forest growth, and create jobs sounds too good to be true. But that is the reality of the emerging wood pellets market in the Southern U.S. That conclusion is supported by independent economic assessments of wood bioenergy, including a recent study that specifically focused on European pellet demand conducted by researchers at Duke and North Carolina State Universities. Those researchers found that increasing demand for wood pellets resulted in more forest area, more forest investment, large greenhouse gas reductions, and little change in forest carbon inventories.
So, why is there concern?
Some critics have recently argued that land used to produce biomass for energy should instead be permanently protected as forests. They say that harvesting biomass from forests reduces forest carbon stocks. Instead, they claim that the best way to increase carbon storage is to reduce demand for renewable products that come from the land. Read more »
Ellie Hohenstein in Michigan with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. (USDA photo)
Last week, Secretary Vilsack went to Michigan State University to deliver a major climate address. Among those in attendance was 15 year old Ellie Hohenstein, a freshman at Annandale High School in Fairfax County, VA. She provides this blog concerning her experiences as she accompanied her father to Lansing for the event. Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications
Submitted by Ellie Hohenstein
My father is the Director of the USDA Climate Change Program Office in Washington, D.C. April 23 was “bring your daughter or son to work day” at USDA. I had no idea what to expect when my Dad told me I could accompany him on his business trip to Michigan. I knew I would get to watch a speech from the Secretary of Agriculture, but this was a much bigger event than I expected. Read more »