, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 11-34

Science Needs and New Technology for Increasing Soil Carbon Sequestration

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Fossil fuel use and land use change that began over 200 years ago are driving the rapid increase in atmospheric content of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that may be impacting climatic change (Houghton et al., 1996). Enhanced terrestrial uptake of CO2 over the next 50 to 100 years has been suggested as a way to reclaim the 150 or more Pg carbon (C) lost to the atmosphere from vegetation and soil since 1850 as a consequence of land use change (Batjes, 1999; Lal et al., 1998a; Houghton, 1995), thus effectively `buying time' for the development and implementation of new longer term technical solutions, such as C-free fuels. The ultimate potential for terrestrial C sequestration is not known, however, because we lack adequate understanding of (1) the biogeochemical mechanisms responsible for C fluxes and storage potential on the molecular, landscape, regional, and global scales, and (2) the complex genetic and physiological processes controlling key biological and ecological phenomena. Specifically, the structure and dynamics of the belowground component of terrestrial carbon pools, which accounts for two-thirds of global terrestrial organic C stocks, is poorly understood. Focusing primarily on forests, croplands and grasslands, the purpose of this chapter is to consider innovative technology for enhancing C sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems and address the scientific issues related to better understanding of soil C sequestration potential through appropriate and effective approaches to ecosystem management.