Climate change poses an enormous threat to our lands and communities. Fortunately, land trusts are working hard across the state to improve local resilience and mitigate climate change through natural climate solutions. By preserving open space and working lands, land trusts promote the health and vitality of native plants and wildlife, protect watersheds, and preserve local food systems and rural economies. Furthermore, land trusts can play a lesser-known role in conservation by enhancing carbon sequestration through their defense of agricultural lands.
While forests are renowned for their carbon sequestration abilities, agricultural soil, too, has an impressive potential for carbon intake. Carbon happens to be the main component of soil organic matter. In fact, there is more carbon stored in soil than there is in the atmosphere and all of Earth’s flora put together.
By protecting traditional farm and rangelands that would otherwise be lost to development, land trusts in Washington are protecting valuable carbon sinks. Moreover, land trusts are working with landowners to improve farming and ranching stewardship practices to ultimately enhance the ability of the land to sequester carbon.
Studies across the country show that regenerative agricultural practices aimed at promoting carbon sequestration through farm soil are successful both in reducing atmospheric CO2 and improving soil health. Best strategies include establishing perennial vegetation on retired agricultural lands, managing residue and tillage to limit soil-disturbing activities, and practicing silvopasture to provide overstories to crops and increase biomass carbon stocks.
Some scientists even say that with improved root growth of agricultural crops, carbon sequestration could account for the entirety of manmade carbon emissions for the next forty years.
By fighting to protect Washington’s farmlands, and implementing climate-friendly agricultural management practices, land trusts across the state are helping rural communities become part of the climate solution.
Kaia Boonzaier is a senior at the University of Washington Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. A student of climate change and energy policy, she is passionate about researching and resolving international resource conflicts. Kaia is from Vashon Island, and lives in Seattle.