NASA awards $ 1 million grant to improve carbon monitoring in East Africa
Cornell University researchers to develop first high-resolution carbon monitoring system for East Africa that combines bottom-up ecological modeling with top-down satellite data, thanks to grant $ 1 million over three years from National Aeronautics. and space administration (NASA).
The East African study area – comprising Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – has experienced deforestation and also contains numerous large-scale land restoration and mitigation programs. climate, but lack of systems to quantify regional carbon stocks and flows.
The organic carbon stored in soil is roughly three times the amount found in living plants and twice that found in the atmosphere, where carbon dioxide (CO2) acts as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. However, measuring and monitoring the carbon sequestration capacity of soil remains a challenge.
From the 2015 Paris climate agreement, these East African countries have ambitious climate change mitigation programs to sequester carbon in soils. Since countries produce little carbon-emitting energy, their mitigation actions rely on introducing carbon into ecosystems such as soils.
Therefore, a rigorous, accurate and low-cost carbon monitoring system will help policymakers verify the effectiveness of their efforts when seeking international climate finance. The data will also inform food security policies, as more soil carbon strengthens the resilience of crops to climate change. For example, carbon helps store more water in soils, making crops more drought tolerant and resistant, which in turn increases yields, especially in drier regions and during dry years.
âThere is currently a strong demand for the use of modern technologies to quantify carbon stocks and flows regionally and globally so that we can reduce costs and maintain precision and thoroughness,â said Sun Ying, Assistant Professor of Geospatial Sciences in the Soil and Crop Sciences Section (SCSS) of the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) and Principal Investigator (PI) of the grant, which began July 1, 2021.
Co-PIs include Dominique woolf, Senior Research Associate, and Johannes lehmann, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor, both at SIPS SCSS.
âIf we are to invest in carbon storage in soils and vegetation for climate change mitigation and soil health, we need to be able to monitor the impact and effectiveness of interventions,â said Woolf . âWe need large-scale systems of what’s going on underground,â he added.
Current methods of large-scale soil carbon monitoring are impractical in terms of effort and cost, as they rely on taking individual soil samples, which must be repeated every few years for data sets at large. long term.
The new system will combine observable ground-based data, real-time satellite measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere and next-generation soil microbial modeling, which integrates information on changes in land cover, humidity, vegetation and photosynthesis, harvesting and crop management, to provide data on underground soil carbon. Combining satellite measurements of CO2 concentrations in the air to optimize computer simulations is an important new approach that will improve confidence in the use of models to predict soil changes over large geographic areas. Additionally, these CO2 measurements will be added to atmospheric transport models that include what is already known about CO2 sources and sinks and how CO2 circulates and mixes in the global atmosphere.
âThe gap between what we see in the atmosphere and what should be there, given everything we know about the sources and sinks of CO2, should add up to what’s going on underground, and we have it. let’s better constrain our underground estimates, âsays Woolf.
The study will improve the modeling of underground soil carbon, in part by adding soil microbial processes; assimilate observations from several NASA Earth observation satellite instruments; develop a platform to estimate regional carbon exchanges between soil and air; optimize the system and quantify uncertainties; and engage government and non-profit stakeholders to use the products developed in their land management programs.
“We hope this will really increase the capacity state, county, country, and the world in providing carbon accounting in a way that is just not possible at the moment,” said said Sun.
Stakeholder partners include Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program on Climate Change and Food Security.