Biosequestration

Biosequestration

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Biosequestration is the capture and storage of the atmospheric greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 by biological processes.

This may be by increased photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 (through practices such as reforestation / preventing deforestation and genetic engineering); by enhanced soil carbon trapping in agriculture; or by the use of algal bio sequestration (see algae bioreactor
Algae bioreactor
An algae bioreactor or photobioreactor is used for cultivating algae on purpose to fix CO2 or produce biomass. Specifically, algae bioreactors can be used to produce fuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol, to generate animal feed, or to reduce pollutants such as NOx and CO2 in flue gases of power...

) to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions from coal, oil or gas-fired electricity generation
Electricity generation
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric energy from other forms of energy.The fundamental principles of electricity generation were discovered during the 1820s and early 1830s by the British scientist Michael Faraday...

.

Biosequestration as a natural process has occurred in the past, and was responsible for the formation of the extensive coal and oil deposists which we are now burning. It is a key policy concept in the climate change mitigation debate. It does not generally refer to the sequestering of carbon dioxide in oceans (see carbon sequestration and ocean acidification
Ocean acidification
Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH and increase in acidity of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere....

) or rock formations, depleted oil or gas reservoirs (see oil depletion
Oil depletion
Oil depletion occurs in the second half of the production curve of an oil well, oil field, or the average of total world oil production. The Hubbert peak theory makes predictions of production rates based on prior discovery rates and anticipated production rates. Hubbert curves predict that the...

 and peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

), deep saline aquifers, or deep coal seams (see coal mining
Coal mining
The goal of coal mining is to obtain coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and since the 1880s has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United States,...

) (for all see geosequestration) or through the use of industrial chemical carbon dioxide scrubbing
Carbon capture and storage
Carbon capture and storage , alternatively referred to as carbon capture and sequestration, is a technology to prevent large quantities of from being released into the atmosphere from the use of fossil fuel in power generation and other industries. It is often regarded as a means of mitigating...

.

The importance of plants in storing atmospheric carbon dioxide


After water vapour (concentrations of which humans have limited capacity to influence) carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 is the most abundant and stable greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 in the atmosphere (methane
Methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

 rapidly reacts to form water vapour and carbon dioxide). Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from about 280 ppm in 1750 to 383 ppm in 2007 and is increasing at an average rate of 2 ppm pr year. The world's oceans have previously played an important role in sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 through solubility and the action of phytoplankton
Phytoplankton
Phytoplankton are the autotrophic component of the plankton community. The name comes from the Greek words φυτόν , meaning "plant", and πλαγκτός , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter". Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye...

. This, and the likely adverse consequences for humans and the biosphere of associated global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

, increases the significance of investigating policy mechanisms for encouraging biosequestration.

Reforestation, Avoided Deforestation and LULUCF


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific intergovernmental body which provides comprehensive assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information worldwide about the risk of climate change caused by human activity, its potential environmental and...

 (IPCC) estimates that the cutting down of forests is now contributing close to 20 per cent of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. Candell and Raupach argue that there are four primary ways in which reforestation
Reforestation
Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation....

 and reducing deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 can increase biosequestration. First, by increasing the volume of existing forest. Second, by increasing the carbon density of existing forests at a stand and landscape scale. Third, by expanding the use of forest products that will sustainably replace fossil-fuel emissions. Fourth, by reducing carbon emissions that are caused from deforestation and degradation.
A recent report by the Australian CSIRO found that forestry and forest-related options are the most significant and most easily achieved carbon sink making up 105 Mt per year CO2-e or about 75 per cent of the total figure attainable for the Australian state of Queensland from 2010-2050. Among the forestry options, the CSIRO report announced, forestry with the primary aim of carbon storage (called carbon forestry) clearly has the highest attainable carbon storage capacity (77 Mt CO2-e/yr) and is one of the easiest options to implement compared with biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 plantings, pre-1990 eucalypts, post 1990 plantations and managed regrowth. Legal strategies to encourage this form of biosequestration include permanent protection of forests in National Parks or on the World Heritage List, properly funded management and bans on use of rainforest
Rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

 timbers and inefficient uses such as woodchipping
Woodchipping
Woodchipping is the act and industry of chipping wood for pulp, processed wood products, and mulch.-Papermaking:Timber is converted to woodchips and sold, primarily, for pulp production used in paper manufacture...

 old growth forest
Old growth forest
An old-growth forest is a forest that has attained great age , and thereby exhibits unique ecological features. An old growth forest has also usually reached a climax community...

.


As a result of lobbying by the developing country caucus (or Group of 77
Group of 77
The Group of 77 at the United Nations is a loose coalition of developing nations, designed to promote its members' collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations. There were 77 founding members of the organization, but the organization has...

) in the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 (associated with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

, the non-legally binding Forest Principles
Forest Principles
The Forest Principles is the informal name given to the "Non-Legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests," a document produced at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment...

 were established in 1992. These linked the problem of deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 to third world debt and inadequate technology transfer
Technology transfer
Technology Transfer, also called Transfer of Technology and Technology Commercialisation, is the process of skill transferring, knowledge, technologies, methods of manufacturing, samples of manufacturing and facilities among governments or universities and other institutions to ensure that...

 and stated that the "agreed full incremental cost of achieving benefits associated with forest conservation...should be equitably shared by the international community" (para1(b)). Subsequently the Group of 77
Group of 77
The Group of 77 at the United Nations is a loose coalition of developing nations, designed to promote its members' collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations. There were 77 founding members of the organization, but the organization has...

 argued in the 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and then the 2001 Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), for affordable access to environmentally sound technologies without the stringency of intellectual property rights; while developed states there rejected demands for a forests fund. The expert group crated under the United Nations Forum on Forests
United Nations Forum on Forests
The United Nations Forum on Forests ' is a high-level intergovernmental policy forum, composed of all United Nations Member States.-History:...

 (UNFF) reported in 2004, but in 2007 developed nations again vetoed language in the principles of the final text which might confirm their legal responsibility under international law to supply finance and environmentally sound technologies to the developing world.
In December 2007, after a two year debate on a proposal from Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

 and Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

, state parties to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) agreed to explore ways of reducing emissions from deforestation and to enhance forest carbon stocks in developing nations. The underlying idea is that developing nations should be financially compensated if they succeed in reducing their levels of deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 (through valuing the carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 that is stored in forests); a concept termed 'avoided deforestaion (AD) or, REDD
Redd
Redd is a Turkish rock band established in 1996 by tenor opera singer Doğan Duru and guitarist Berke Hatipoğlu under the name Ten. They used to play at bars until they set up their own studio in 2004. Their first album, entitled "50/50", produced by Levent Büyük was published a year later by...

 if broadened to include reducing forest degradation (see Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). Under the free market model advocated by the countries who have formed the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, developing nations with rainforests would sell carbon sink credits under a free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 system to Kyoto Protocol
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , aimed at fighting global warming...

 Annex I states who have exceeded their emissions allowance. Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 (the state with the largest area of tropical rainforest) however, opposes including avoided deforestation in a carbon trading
Carbon trading
Carbon trading may refer to:*Carbon emission trading*Personal carbon trading*Emissions trading...

 mechanism and instead favors creation of a multilateral development assistance fund created from donations by developed states. For REDD to be successful science and regulatory infrastructure related to forests will need to increase so nations may inventory all their forest carbon, show that they can control land use at the local level and prove that their emissions are declining.
Subsequent to the initial donor nation response, the UN established REDD Plus, or REDD+, expanding the original program's scope to include increasing forest cover through both reforestation and the planting of new forest cover, as well as promoting sustainable forest resource management.
The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Article 4(1)(a) requires all Parties to "develop, periodically update, publish and make available to the Conference of the Parties" as well as "national inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources" "removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol." Under the UNFCCC reporting guidelines, human-induced greenhouse emissions must be reported in six sectors: energy (including stationary energy and transport); industrial processes; solvent and other product use; agriculture; waste; and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). The rules governing accounting and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from LULUCF under the Kyoto Protocol
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , aimed at fighting global warming...

 are contained in several decisions of the Conference of Parties under the UNFCCC and LULUCF has been the subject of two major reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific intergovernmental body which provides comprehensive assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information worldwide about the risk of climate change caused by human activity, its potential environmental and...

 (IPCC). The Kyoto Protocol article 3.3 thus requires mandatory LULUCF accounting for afforestation (no forest for last 50 years), reforestation (no forest on 31 December 1989) and deforestation, as well as (in the first commitment period) under article 3.4 voluntary accounting for cropland management, grazing land management, revegetation and forest management (if not already accounted under article 3.3).


As an example, the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI) prepared in compliance with these requirements indicates that the energy sector accounts for 69 per cent of Australia’s emissions, agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 16 per cent and LULUCF six per cent. Since 1990, however, emissions from the energy sector have increased 35 per cent (stationary energy up 43% and transport up 23%). By comparison, emissions from LULUCF have fallen by 73%. However, questions have been raised by Andrew Macintosh about the veracity of the estimates of emissions from the LULUCF sector because of discrepancies between the Australian Federal and Queensland Governments’ land clearing data. Data published by the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) in Queensland, for example, show that the total amount of land clearing in Queensland identified under SLATS between 1989/90 and 2000/01 is approximately 50 per cent higher than the amount estimated by the Australian Federal Government’s National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS) between 1990 and 2001.

Satellite imaging has become crucial in obtaining data on levels of deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 and reforestation
Reforestation
Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation....

. Landsat satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 data, for example, has been used to map tropical deforestation as part of NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

’s Landsat Pathfinder Humid Tropical Deforestation Project, a collaborative effort among scientists from the University of Maryland
University of Maryland
When the term "University of Maryland" is used without any qualification, it generally refers to the University of Maryland, College Park.University of Maryland may refer to the following:...

, the University of New Hampshire
University of New Hampshire
The University of New Hampshire is a public university in the University System of New Hampshire , United States. The main campus is in Durham, New Hampshire. An additional campus is located in Manchester. With over 15,000 students, UNH is the largest university in New Hampshire. The university is...

, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard Space Flight Center
The Goddard Space Flight Center is a major NASA space research laboratory established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center. GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors, and is located approximately northeast of Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. GSFC,...

. The project yielded deforestation maps for the Amazon Basin
Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries that drains an area of about , or roughly 40 percent of South America. The basin is located in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela...

, Central Africa
Central Africa
Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda....

, and Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 for three periods in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Enhanced photosynthesis


Biosequestration may be enhanced by improving photosynthetic efficiency
Photosynthetic efficiency
The photosynthetic efficiency is the fraction of light energy converted into chemical energy during photosynthesis in plants and algae. Photosynthesis can be described by the simplified chemical reactionwhere CH2O represents carbohydrates such as sugars, cellulose, and lignin.The value of the...

 by modifying RuBisCO
RuBisCO
Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase, commonly known by the shorter name RuBisCO, is an enzyme involved in the first major step of carbon fixation, a process by which atmospheric carbon dioxide is converted by plants to energy-rich molecules such as glucose. RuBisCo is an abbreviation...

 genes in plants to increase the catalytic and/or oxygenation activity of that enzyme.
One such research area involves increasing the Earth's proportion of C4 carbon fixation
C4 carbon fixation
C4 carbon fixation is one of three biochemical mechanisms, along with and CAM photosynthesis, used in carbon fixation. It is named for the 4-carbon molecule present in the first product of carbon fixation in these plants, in contrast to the 3-carbon molecule products in plants. fixation is an...

 photosynthetic plants. C4 plants represent about 5% of Earth's plant biomass and 1% of its known plant species, but account for around 30% of terrestrial carbon fixation.
In leaves of C3 plants, captured photons of solar energy undergo photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 which assimilates carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 into carbohydrates (triosephosphates) in the chloroplasts of the mesophyll
Mesophyll
Mesophyll can refer to:* Mesophyll tissue, in plant anatomy, photosynthetic parenchyma cells that lie between the upper and lower epidermis layers of a leaf...

 cells. The primary CO2 fixation step is catalysed by ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco
RuBisCO
Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase, commonly known by the shorter name RuBisCO, is an enzyme involved in the first major step of carbon fixation, a process by which atmospheric carbon dioxide is converted by plants to energy-rich molecules such as glucose. RuBisCo is an abbreviation...

) which reacts with O2 leading to photorespiration
Photorespiration
Photorespiration, or "'photo-respiration'", is a process in plant metabolism by which RuBP has oxygen added to it by the enzyme , instead of carbon dioxide during normal photosynthesis. This is the beginning step of the Calvin-Benson cycle...

 that protects photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 from photoinhibition
Photoinhibition
Photoinhibition is light-induced reduction in the photosynthetic capacity of a plant, alga, or cyanobacterium. Photosystem II is more sensitive to light than the rest of the photosynthetic machinery, and most researchers define the term as light-induced damage to PSII...

 but wastes 50% of potentially fixed carbon. The C4 photosynthetic pathway, however, concentrates CO2 at the site of the reaction of Rubisco
RuBisCO
Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase, commonly known by the shorter name RuBisCO, is an enzyme involved in the first major step of carbon fixation, a process by which atmospheric carbon dioxide is converted by plants to energy-rich molecules such as glucose. RuBisCo is an abbreviation...

, thereby reducing the biosequestration-inhibiting photorespiration. A new frontier in crop science consists of attempts to genetically engineer C3 staple food crops (such as wheat, barley, soybeans, potatoes and rice) with the "turbo-charged" photosynthetic apparatus of C4 plants.

Biochar


Biochar
Biochar
Biochar or terra preta is charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass. Biochar is under investigation as an approach to carbon sequestration via bio-energy with carbon capture and storage. Biochar thus has the potential to help mitigate climate change, via carbon sequestration...

 (charcoal created by pyrolysis
Pyrolysis
Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures without the participation of oxygen. It involves the simultaneous change of chemical composition and physical phase, and is irreversible...

 of biomass
Biomass
Biomass, as a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel....

) is a potent form of longterm (thousands of years) biosequestration of atmosphereic CO2 derived from investigation of the extremely fertile Terra preta
Terra preta
Terra preta is a type of very dark, fertile anthropogenic soil found in the Amazon Basin. Terra preta owes its name to its very high charcoal content, and was indeed made by adding a mixture of charcoal, bone, and manure to the otherwise relatively infertile Amazonian soil, and stays there for...

 soils of the Amazon Basin
Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries that drains an area of about , or roughly 40 percent of South America. The basin is located in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela...

. Placing biochar in soils also improves water quality, increases soil fertility, raises agricultural productivity and reduce pressure on old growth forests. As a method of generating bio-energy with carbon storage
Bio-energy with carbon storage
BECS or Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage may refer to:*Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage *The burial or storage of biochar created by partial burning of biomass...

 Rob Flanagan and the EPRIDA biochar company have developed low-tech cooking stoves for developing nations that can burn agricultural wastes such as rice husks and produce 15% by weight of biochar; while BEST Energies in NSW Australia have spent a decade developing an Agrichar
Agrichar
Agrichar is the global brand name and US registered trademark for the biochar produced from the proprietary slow pyrolysis process useful in biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, improving fertility of soils and reducing pressure on old growth forests.- Agrichar development :The NSW...

 technology that can combust 96 tonnes of dry biomass each day, generating 30-40 tonnes of biochar. A parametric study of biosequestration by Malcolm Fowles at the Open University
Open University
The Open University is a distance learning and research university founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom...

, indicated that to mitigate global warming, policies should encourage displacement of coal with biomass as a power source for baseload electricity generation if the latter’s conversion efficiency rose over 30%, otherwise biosequestering carbon from biomass as a cheaper mitigation option than geosequestration by CO2 capture and storage.

Improved agricultural and farming practices


Zero-till farming practices occur where there is much mulching but ploughing is not used, so that the carbon-rich organic matter in soil is not exposed to atmospheric oxygen, or to the leaching and erosion effects of rainfall. Over grazing is reduced by moving cattle and sheep away from grazed areas for several months. Ceasing ploughing has been alleged to encourage more ants to become predators of wood-eating (and CO2 generating) termites, allows weeds to regenerate soils and helps slow water flows over the land.
Dedicated biofuel and biosequestration crops, such as switchgrass (panicum virgatum), are also being developed. It requires from 0.97 to 1.34 GJ fossil energy to produce 1 tonne of switchgrass, compared with 1.99 to 2.66 GJ to produce 1 tonne of corn. Given that switchgrass contains approximately 18.8 GJ/ODT of biomass, the energy output-to-input ratio for the crop can be up to 20:1.

Biosequestration can also be enhanced by farmers choosing crops species that produce large numbers of phytoliths. Phytoliths are microscopic spherical shells of silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

 that can store carbon for thousands of years.

Biosequestration and climate change policy


Industries with large amounts of CO2 emissions (such as the coal industry) are interested in biosequestration as a means of offsetting their greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 production. In Australia, university researchers are engineering algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 to produce biofuels (hydrogen and biodiesel oils) and investigating whether this process can be used to biosequester carbon. Algae naturally capture sunlight and use its energy to split water into hydrogen, oxygen and oil which can be extracted. Such clean energy production also can be coupled with desalination
Desalination
Desalination, desalinization, or desalinisation refers to any of several processes that remove some amount of salt and other minerals from saline water...

 using salt-tolerant marine algae to generate fresh water and electricity.
Many new bioenergy (biofuel
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

) technologies, including cellulosic ethanol biorefineries (using stems and branches of most plants including crop residues such as corn stalks, wheat straw and rice straw) are being promoted because they have the added advantage of biosequestration of CO2. The Garnaut Climate Change Review
Garnaut Climate Change Review
The Garnaut Climate Change Review was a study by Professor Ross Garnaut, commissioned by then Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd and by the Australian State and Territory Governments on 30 April 2007...

 recommends that a carbon price in a carbon emission trading
Carbon emission trading
Carbon emissions trading is a form of emissions trading that specifically targets carbon dioxide and it currently constitutes the bulk of emissions trading....

 scheme could include a financial incentive for biosequestration processes.
Garnaut recommends the use of algal biosequestration (see algae bioreactor
Algae bioreactor
An algae bioreactor or photobioreactor is used for cultivating algae on purpose to fix CO2 or produce biomass. Specifically, algae bioreactors can be used to produce fuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol, to generate animal feed, or to reduce pollutants such as NOx and CO2 in flue gases of power...

) to absorb the constant stream of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 emissions from coal-fired electricity generation
Electricity generation
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric energy from other forms of energy.The fundamental principles of electricity generation were discovered during the 1820s and early 1830s by the British scientist Michael Faraday...

 and metal smelting until renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind power, become more established contributors to the grid. Garnaut, for example, states: "Some algal biosequestration processes could absorb emissions from coal-fired electricity generation and metals smelting." The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD
UN-REDD
The UN-REDD Programme is the United Nations collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries...

 Programme) is a collaboration between FAO
Fão
Fão is a town in Esposende Municipality in Portugal....

, UNDP and UNEP under which a trust fund established in July 2008 allows donors to pool resources to generate the requisite transfer flow of resources to significantly reduce global emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The UK government's Stern Review
Stern Review
The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is a 700-page report released for the British government on 30 October 2006 by economist Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and also chair of the Centre...

 on the economics of climate change argued that curbing deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 was a "highly cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions".

James E. Hansen argues that, "An effective way to achieve drawdown [of carbon dioxide] would be to burn biofuels in power plants and capture the CO2, with the biofuels derived from agricultural or urban wastes or grown on degraded lands using little or no fossil fuel inputs."

Under a 2009 agreement, Loy Yang Power and MBD Energy Ltd will build a pilot Fossil fuel power plant
Fossil fuel power plant
A fossil-fuel power station is a power station that burns fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas or petroleum to produce electricity. Central station fossil-fuel power plants are designed on a large scale for continuous operation...

 at the Latrobe Valley power station in Australia using biosequestration technology in the form of an algal synthesiser system. Captured CO2 from the waste exhaust flue gases will be injected into circulating waste water to grow oil-rich algae where sunlight and nutrients will produce heavy oil-laden slurry that can make high grade oil for energy, or stock feed. Other commercial demonstration projects involving biosequestration of CO2 at point of emission have begun in Australia.

Philosophical basis of biosequestration


The arguments for biosequestration are often shaped in terms of economic theory, yet there is a well-recognised quality of life dimension to this debate. Biosequestration assists human beings to increase their collective and individual contributions to the essential resources of the biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

. The policy case for biosequestration overlaps with principles of ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

, sustainability
Sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

 and sustainable development
Sustainable development
Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come...

, as well as biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

, biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 and ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 protection, environmental ethics
Environmental ethics
Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world...

, climate ethics
Climate ethics
Climate Ethics is a new and growing area of research that focuses on the ethical dimensions of climate change, and concepts such as climate justice....

 and natural conservation.

Barriers to increased global biosequestration


The Garnaut Climate Change Review
Garnaut Climate Change Review
The Garnaut Climate Change Review was a study by Professor Ross Garnaut, commissioned by then Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd and by the Australian State and Territory Governments on 30 April 2007...

 notes many barriers to increased global biosequestration. "There must be changes in the accounting regimes for greenhouse gases. Investments are required in research, development and commercialisation of superior approaches to biosequestration. Adjustments are required in the regulation of land use. New institutions will need to be developed to coordinate the interests in utilisation of biosequestration opportunities across small business in rural communities. Special efforts will be required to unlock potential in rural communities in developing countries." Saddler and King have argued that biosequestration and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions should not be handled within a global emissions trading scheme because of difficulties with measuring such emissions, problems in controlling them and the burden that would be placed on numerous small-scale farming operations. Collett likewise maintains that REDD
Redd
Redd is a Turkish rock band established in 1996 by tenor opera singer Doğan Duru and guitarist Berke Hatipoğlu under the name Ten. They used to play at bars until they set up their own studio in 2004. Their first album, entitled "50/50", produced by Levent Büyük was published a year later by...

 credits (post-facto payments to developing countries for reducing their deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 rates below an historical or projected reference rate), simply create a complex market approach to this global public health problem that reduces transparency and accountability when targets are not met and will not be as effective as developed nations voluntarily funding countries to keep their rainforests.

The World Rainforest Movement
World Rainforest Movement
The World Rainforest Movement is an international NGO and Indigenous Peoples' Groups network involved in efforts to defend the world's tropical forests against the forces that destroy them....

 has argued that poor developing countries could be pressured to accept reforestation
Reforestation
Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation....

 projects under the Kyoto Protocol
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , aimed at fighting global warming...

's Clean Development Mechanism
Clean Development Mechanism
The Clean Development Mechanism is one of the "flexibility" mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol . It is defined in Article 12 of the Protocol, and is intended to meet two objectives: to assist parties not included in Annex I in achieving sustainable development and in contributing to the...

 in order to earn foreign exchange
Foreign exchange market
The foreign exchange market is a global, worldwide decentralized financial market for trading currencies. Financial centers around the world function as anchors of trading between a wide range of different types of buyers and sellers around the clock, with the exception of weekends...

 simply to pay off the interest on debt to the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

. Tensions also exist over forest management between the sovereignty claims of nations states, arguments about common heritage of mankind
Common heritage of mankind
Common heritage of mankind is a principle of international law which holds that defined territorial areas and elements of humanity's common heritage should be held in trust for future generations and be protected from exploitation by individual...

 and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities; the Forest Peoples Programme
Forest Peoples Programme
The Forest Peoples Programme is a non-governmental organisation that campaigns for the rights of indigenous forest-dwellers. Founded in 1990 by the Uruguay-based World Rainforest Movement, FPP seeks to bridge the gap between policy makers and forest peoples. The Forest Peoples Project is its...

 (FPP) arguing the anti-deforestation programs could merely allow financial benefits to flow to national treasuries, privilege would-be corporate forest degraders who manipulate the system by periodically threatening forests, rather than local communities who conserve them. The success of such projects will also depend on the accuracy of the baseline data and the number of countries involved. Further, it has been argued that if biosequestration is to play a significant role in mitigating anthropogenic climate change then coordinated policies should set a goal of achieving global forest cover to its extent prior to the industrial revolution in the 1800s.

It has also been argued that the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD
Redd
Redd is a Turkish rock band established in 1996 by tenor opera singer Doğan Duru and guitarist Berke Hatipoğlu under the name Ten. They used to play at bars until they set up their own studio in 2004. Their first album, entitled "50/50", produced by Levent Büyük was published a year later by...

) may increase pressure to convert or modify other ecosystems, especially savannahs and wetlands, for food or biofuel, even though those ecosystems also have high carbon sequestration potential. Globally, for example, peatlands cover only 3% of the land surface but store twice the amount of carbon as all the world's forests, whilst mangrove forests and saltmarshes are examples of relatively low-biomass ecosystems with high levels of productivity and carbon sequestration. Other researchers have argued that REDD
Redd
Redd is a Turkish rock band established in 1996 by tenor opera singer Doğan Duru and guitarist Berke Hatipoğlu under the name Ten. They used to play at bars until they set up their own studio in 2004. Their first album, entitled "50/50", produced by Levent Büyük was published a year later by...

 is a critical component of an effective global biosequestration strategy that could provide significant benefits, such as the conservation of biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

, particularly if it moves away from focusing on protecting forests that are most cost-effective for reducing carbon emissions (such as those in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 where agricultural opportunity costs are relatively low, unlike Asia, which has sizeable revenues from oil palm, rubber, rice, and maize). They argue REDD could be varied to allow funding of programs to slow peat degradation in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 and target protection of biodiversity in “hot spot”—areas with high species richness and relatively little remaining forest. Some purchasers, they maintain, of REDD carbon credits, such as multinational corporations or nations, might pay a premium to save imperiled eco-systems or areas with high-profile species.

See also

  • Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage
    Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage
    Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage is a greenhouse gas mitigation technology which produces negative carbon emissions by combining biomass use with geologic carbon capture and storage....

  • Carbon dioxide removal
  • Carbon negative
    Carbon negative
    Carbon negative is an adjectival phrase used to describe any process that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, with the intent to avoid global warming.-Carbon dioxide sinks and carbon negativity:...

  • Greenhouse gas remediation
    Greenhouse gas remediation
    Greenhouse gas remediation projects are a type of geoengineering and seek to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and thus tackle the root cause of global warming. These techniques either directly remove greenhouse gases, or alternatively seek to influence natural processes to remove...

  • Negative emissions
    Negative carbon dioxide emission
    A negative carbon dioxide emission or negative emission is a permanent removal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is considered the direct opposite of carbon dioxide emission, hence its name...


External links


Greenfleet (not-for-profit company assisting with biosequestration options) http://www.greenfleet.com.au/About_Greenfleet/index.aspx

Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions transitioned from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in November 2011 under the leadership of its president, Eileen Claussen...

. Biosequestration fact sheet. http://www.pewclimate.org/technology/factsheet/Biosequestration