Re-Building the World's Soil: The Role of Soil Carbon Methodology for U.S. and Global Carbon Offset Projects

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New standardized methodology developed by The Earth Partners, in a partnership with Applied Ecological Services and Brinkman & Associates, allows public agencies and other parties to document and receive marketplace credit—or other financial incentives—for improvements to soil carbon levels.

Our initial review indicates that over 100 million acres of degraded lands in the U.S. could benefit from the use of The Earth Partners method.

The Earth Partners is pleased to announce the validation of its comprehensive soil carbon quantification methodology by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The new methodology provides a credible, science-based approach to measuring soil carbon and reducing or removing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on land-based agriculture, forestry and other land use projects, including ecosystem restorations. It can be applied on most ecosystems and land types. Additional modules are also being developed for peatlands, and bio-char.

Vegetation and soil ecosystems presently hold over 2 trillion tons of carbon. This is more than 350 times the annual global GHG emissions. However, compared to historic conditions, soil carbon levels in most agricultural fields and many other landscapes types are now reduced from 60 to 90 percent.

Soils are responsive, however, and through the growth of the right plant species, soil carbon levels can be quickly “re-grown” through the plants’ ability to absorb and transfer atmospheric CO₂to the soil. According to scientists reporting in the journal “Science”, by re-growing soil carbon levels, up to 50% or more of global GHG emissions can be offset annually for the next 30 years or more. Additional benefits of increased levels of soil carbon include increased soil fertility, reduced downstream flooding and diminished needs for irrigation and fertilizers.

A robust methodology for quantifying soil carbon improvements has long been needed to be able to take advantage of the benefits in land improvement strategies. The new methodology is a comprehensive tool to measure and document benefits to the climate from investments made by landowners, agencies, investors, and others, and to bring necessary accountability in marketplace or regulatory processes. It has been estimated that there are 2.2 billion hectares of degraded lands acting as GHG emissions sources where soil carbon restoration could alleviate emissions.

The Earth Partners’ method uniquely combines practical and cost-effective field measurements of soil carbon through landscape mapping, stratification and modeling to maintain high confidence levels. The method has been considered to be a global game-changer by bringing credible accountability to projects designed to reduce emissions or offset unavoidable emissions.

The important development of this comprehensive method has been supported by the Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (C-AGG), a coalition of U.S. federal agencies, conservation non-profit organizations, carbon registries, industry and research groups, and academic institutions. To-date, the method has been used to document the restoration benefits in degraded agricultural fields, rangeland and mined lands.

“Our initial review indicates that over 100 million acres of degraded lands in the U.S. could benefit from the use of The Earth Partners method” said Steven Apfelbaum, senior ecologist and owner of Applied Ecological Services, a founding member of The Earth Partners.

“It has been tested across grassland, rangeland and savanna ecosystem restorations, in grain agriculture and vegetable production projects, on reclaimed mined lands, and in forests in the Americas and Europe, and it’s being demonstrated in Australia and New Zealand at this time,” said Dirk Brinkman, founder of Brinkman & Associates Reforestation and also a founding member of The Earth Partners.

The method was developed using decades of soil carbon research conducted by top global soil scientists and members of The Earth Partners. It has been tested and refined in conjunction with The Earth Partners scientists on more than sixty sites, and at various landscape scales – from several acres to millions of acres in size. The method is being used in a U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Innovation Grant project covering seven million acres of the Palouse and Columbia Plateau region of the Pacific Northwest. This project is a unique partnership between The Earth Partners and Shepherd’s Grain, a leading Food Alliance-certified wheat producer group consisting of family farmers.

Shepherd’s Grain director Karl Kuper said, "Shepherd's Grain is excited to partner with The Earth Partners to create a science-based model that rewards producers for their sustainable agricultural practices, which other farmers can use across the country."

David Tepper, CEO of The Earth Partners added, “The Palouse project will demonstrate how a regional agricultural protocol might work across millions of acres for regulated markets such as California, as well as for the certification of reduced carbon in agricultural supply chains. We will be actively looking to replicate this model on other regions where a change in agricultural practice can lead to significant carbon and soil health benefits.”

About the Earth Partners
The Earth Partners LP is a partnership of land restoration leaders focused on restoring the health and productivity of agricultural lands, rangelands, grasslands, wetlands, forested lands, and mined lands. The partners include Applied Ecological Services, one of the world’s leading ecological restoration firms, and Brinkman & Associates, North America’s leading reforestation and First Nation community resource management firm. Both companies have pioneered carbon and ecosystem service methodologies. The Earth Partners is developing soil and ecosystem restoration projects in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Idaho, Oregon and North Carolina.

For more information, please contact Chas Taylor, Director of Business Development, at chas.taylor(at)teplp(dot)com.

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Steven I. Apfelbaum, Founder, Principal Ecologist

Chas Taylor, Director of Business Development
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