I am glad that Robin brought this discussion up.
[Last week I had to restrain myself from replying as I was writing an essay until Friday so until then I had to keep my mouth shut.]
The fact that Charles Keeling's curve of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is a saw tooth shape, varying for Summer and Winter according to the vegetative biomass in the Northern Hemisphere sequestering a greater amount of CO2 emissions over the Summer, shows how intimately connected Land-based Carbon sinks are with atmospheric Carbon levels.
The Australian Forests and Climate Alliance is holding a conference in Canberra on Aug 13- see the draft flyer attached.
Studies by Brendan Mackey et al (2008) from the ANU have shown that the stock of carbon for intact natural forests in south-eastern Australia was about 640 t C ha-1 of total carbon (biomass plus soil, with a standard deviation of 383), with 360 t C ha-1 of biomass carbon (living plus dead biomass, with a standard deviation of 277). – far more that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) default values for temperate forests of 60 tonnes of carbon. The average net primary productivity (NPP) of these natural forests was 12 t C ha-1 yr-1 (with a standard deviation of 1.8). Here is one link for an ANU summary of Mackey's 2008 work: http://epress.anu.edu.au/green_carbon_citation.html
A later 2009 Mackey et al study measured 132 forest around the planet in a five year period and identified that the temperate forests of central Victoria, and in particular the O'Shannassy catchment around the headwaters of the Yarra River, stores twice the amount of carbon as tropical rainforests. The giant mountain ash eucalypts and lush understorey vegetation stores just under 2000 tonnes of carbon a hectare. The study identified that as the trees age, the figure rises, with trees more than 250 years old boosting the carbon sink capacity to just over 2800 tonnes a hectare.
A motion was passed on 12 June by Bega Valley Council to burn NSW's forests for power. It is very important to support the campaign against this.
Similar rates of sequestration are being achieved by innovative highly productive farming systems. Christine Jones' work has shown that at the property Winona, 33 tonnes carbon per Hectare per annum was sequestered using organic farming methods over ten years. If such soil management practices were extended over just 20% of the 500 million ha to regenerate the health of our variably degraded rural landscape Australia could readily draw down 1 billion tonnes of carbon per annum; or 500% of our direct current emissions. Christine is working closely with farmers groups as well as Healthy Soils Australia. This was reported in the March edition of the Organic Federation of Australia newsletter (thanks to Jill Redwood and Keri James for info) According to this newsletter, Sequestering 1.1 tonnes of CO2 per hectare of agricultural soil per year would make Australia GHG neutral. (See here for figures) . This has also been covered by Reuters/WBCSD here
Walter, from Climate Action Canberra, and from Healthy Soils Australia, has taught me a lot about soils, forests and carbon sequestration. He has also taught me about atmospheric microbiology, broadleaf forests and their role in mitigation of the powerful greenhouse gas of water vapour, which may cause half of global warming (Dessler and Sherwood 2009) -but that's another story. He has argued that farmers should receive a reward for sequestering carbon, which he sees as a climate justice issue. When the farmer Peter Spencer did his hunger strike (quite soon after Paul and Michael did theirs), the media framed it mainly as about 'property rights', but Walter argued it's not that simple- it's about supporting good land management. Now the Carbon Farming Initiative claims to do this... I would need to see how robust the regulatory regimes are for this $, to prove to me it's not easily corruptible. Walter says we dont need impossible ineffective bureaucracies such as that proposed via the CFI that dangerously undermine the international agreed Kyoto standards for credible carbon offsets. We must and can easily meet the highest standards, anything less is defrauding the future. Some of the risks are discussed in a recent edition of Ecos Magazine, and the CSIRO has done a study on Carbon farming and rural land use.
Walter says that in 1839, Count Paul de Strzelecki compiled a very detailed record of Australian soils along the Eastern Seaboard, in Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land [resource list] finding an average organic carbon content of over 20 per cent, and West of the great Divide, the land was full of large clumping grasses with deep root systems, that stored Carbon. Now the organic carbon content is around 2 per cent, and often less than 0.5 per cent- due to bad land management including excessively intensive cattle grazing (animals should be rotated- with land grazed intensively once a year to mimic seasonal herd migration). With oxidation and erosion, carbon is washed away into river systems. Not just the carbon cycle but also the water cycle is affected: the sponginess/ porousness of the soils is lost, and so water cannot stay in the soil- leaving compacted soil or hard clay pans that do not absorb water: a flood/drought cycle. He has said that around 1 metre of topsoil has been lost through erosion over the last 220 years or so. He also believes that the management of the Murray Darling Basin should not focus on the 1% of the water that is actually in the rivers and streams but rather the 99% of water that is held in the soils.
THE POTENTIAL FOR REGENERATING LAND
One of the most spectacular examples in recent times of entire-landscape transformations is the regeneration of the Loess Plateau in China, which was so severely degraded and eroded that it was in many parts a semi-desert... and became a lush bioproductive valley. Here is the short version of Hope in a Changing Climate. I recommend the longer version- screen it in public-, it is pretty inspiring.
On 13 June 2011 22:10, Robin Harrison
you're right, there has been little new content. There has been a lot of effort put in to defending the major focus on co2 emissions by you and Ben with no acknowledgement that others share my concerns. My concerns stand and if you don't share them, as clearly you don't, you have the option of hitting delete. My desire is for a rational discussion, not an argument.
> To: email@example.com
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2011 21:15:59 +1000
> Subject: Re: [GRCO] Concerns about the major focus on Co2 emissions
> can this discussion go off-list, please?
> There have been 12+ emails, many with little or no new content.
> On 13/06/2011, at 8:42 PM, Robin Harrison wrote:
> > Hi Jane,
> > there is no intention for conflict or tearing anyone down. My desire
> > is for a discussion amongst people with the same aim, a sustainable
> > future for our species, that can take us forward. My concern is that
> > if deforestation is as significant in climate change as I think it
> > is, the response envisaged by the major focus on co2 emissions is
> > nowhere near enough, even without the serious corruption we're
> > seeing in implementation.
> > Robin
> > From: email@example.com
> > To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> > CC: email@example.com
> > Subject: RE: [GRCO] Concerns about the major focus on Co2 emissions
> > Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2011 19:53:28 +1000
> > Hi Robin
> > I find it hard to understand what the conflict is about here.
> > I assume you agree that we have to do a lot of re-afforestation just
> > to draw down the excess GHGs in that have accumulated in the
> > atmosphere? I assume you don’t think that we should just keep
> > building more coal and gas infrastructure, drilling for oil in
> > sensitive deep ocean locations, and devastating our farmland, our
> > wilderness and our priceless fossil water stores with more coal and
> > gas mines? Nor pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere when this is
> > acidifying the oceans and certainly contributing the ocean
> > extinction event?
> > I think probably the vast majority of the climate movement supports
> > action on deforestation too and there are lots of groups working on
> > Forests and Climate. Here and overseas.
> > There is plenty to do and we can all work in the areas that we choose.
> > Let’s collaborate and build on each others’ efforts not try to tear
> > each other down.
> > It’s not either/or it’s both/and …
> > Jane
> > From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com
> > ] On Behalf Of Robin Harrison
> > Sent: Monday, 13 June 2011 6:03 PM
> > To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
> > Subject: RE: [GRCO] Concerns about the major focus on Co2 emissions
> > Hi Ben,
> > The phrase 'if deforestation is the major cause of climate change'
> > came after considerable evidence to suggest that's the case. The
> > major species extinction event is proven, as is the concurrent
> > deforestation and the effects of deforestation.
> > I don't know if there is scientific proof of a connection but maybe
> > you can help here? Do you know of any scientific proof that there's
> > no connection? If not, that suggests the scenario hasn't been
> > scientifically examined yet and there's precedent for this. 40 years
> > ago, the largely artist led environment movement was dismissed out
> > of hand. Emminent scientists declared publicly there was no
> > scientific evidence our actions were radically changing our
> > environment. That's because they hadn't yet looked. Of course when
> > they looked they found the evidence.
> > You and I have something else in common Ben; I haven't heard anyone
> > else saying this either and i feel a bit like a voice in the
> > wilderness. But then, that's how a lot of us felt 40 years ago so
> > nothing new. I have huge concerns the focus on co2 emissions will
> > not, cannot, address the problem because there's a large possibility
> > they are not the prime cause. This is a question that has to be
> > examined. An interesting research project perhaps?
> > Cheers
> > Robin
> > To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> > From: email@example.com
> > Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2011 10:59:31 +1000
> > Subject: Re: [GRCO] Concerns about the major focus on Co2 emissions
> > On 12/06/2011 9:22 PM, Robin Harrison wrote:
> > If deforestation is the major cause of climate change
> > You need to provide some evidence to back up this assumption, as I
> > don't think it's currently shared by others on this list - you're
> > the only person I've heard saying this.
> > Whereas the response to deforestation can resolve any atmospheric
> > co2 imbalance.
> > And you need to support this assertion too. I'm all in favour of
> > reforestation to draw down CO2 and protect biodiversity and prevent
> > desertification etc etc (and most if not all climate activists too)
> > but these sweeping assertions need to be backed up with verifiable,
> > quantitative data if you want people to act on them.
> > Cutting back on co2 emissions is probably crucial. Giving control of
> > that to an economy run by the major polluters is probably not a good
> > idea. Is anyone else worried about the virtually exclusive focus on
> > co2 emissions?
> > I agree with the first two sentences, but as per my above comments,
> > I am yet to be convinced on the third point.
> > cheers
> > Ben Courtice