02 Nov 2010:
Expansion of Cropland is
Stretching Earth’s Ability to Store Carbon
The conversion of the planet’s ecosystems into cropland — particularly in tropical rainforests — is stretching the Earth’s ability to store carbon
, according to a new study. The demand for new agricultural
land is growing most rapidly in the tropics, due to growing populations, changing diets, food security concerns, and a rising demand for biofuels. But not only is the crop yield weakest in those regions, the clear-cutting of tropical forest results in twice as much carbon released into the atmosphere per unit of land as in temperate regions, since the forests act as massive carbon sinks, according to the study published the Proceedings of the National Academies
. “In terms of balancing the needs of food production and slowing carbon dioxide emissions, this is a tough tradeoff,” said Jonathan Foley
, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and co-author of the study, which researchers call the most comprehensive analysis on the tradeoff between carbon storage and crop production. Researchers suggest a better alternative to clearing new cropland is more efficient use of existing farmland.
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A look at how acidifying oceans could threaten the Dungeness crab, one of the most valuable fisheries on the U.S. West Coast. Watch the video.
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An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S. View the photos.
An indigenous tribe’s deadly fight to save its ancestral land in the Amazon rainforest from logging. Learn more.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
Residents of the Chocó Rainforest in Ecuador are choosing to plant cacao over logging in an effort to slow deforestation.
Watch the video.
Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land. Watch the video.