Scientists know simply reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is not enough; we must also pull carbon out of the atmosphere in the form of CO2. Soil carbon sequestration is the process of moving CO2 from the atmosphere into the soil, where it can no longer contribute to global warming (sequester means 'to store').
Plants pull CO2 out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, so as plants grow, carbon is captured in their roots. When the plant dies, its roots remain in the soil, serving as a storage unit for carbon. In a nutshell—this is the process of building healthy soils.
Soil organic matter is approximately 50 percent carbon. As we increase soil carbon, we build soil. Over the past 150 years more than a third of the CO2 we have added to the atmosphere has come from changes in land use and poor land management, not from burning fossil fuels. In that time, we have lost 50-80 percent of our topsoil worldwide. Positive changes in land use could sequester significant amounts of carbon in the soil. Restoring even a portion of the lost carbon in our soils would represent a significant reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gases, an effective tool to curb global warming.
As climate change legislation, including California’s AB32, comes into effect, more and better economic opportunities will exist for projects that sequester atmospheric carbon. Income from marketing of sequestered soil carbon could help ranchers keep ranch land safe from the threat of development, while securing local food production and improving ecosystem health.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”
~ and the nation that rebuilds its soil rebuilds itself.