There is much to be said about pulling yourself out of a dark place. This comes naturally to our talented planet, and she doesn’t say much about it. Granted, everything she does comes naturally and in beautiful form. We sure have a lot to learn from her, and we at Charlotteville will never stop following her lead.
Another great thing about her is that she doesn’t waste anything. She finds creative ways to recycle and regenerate energy. We have much to learn from these transformative capabilities. Carbon sequestration is a beautiful example of this regenerative nature of our planet.
Climate change is a feat we all face and something we must work together to fight for the health of the earth. Carbon sequestration is a process that has been gaining attention lately on this forefront; I bet a lot of you have likely already heard or read about it. Especially if you live in a rural setting like Norfolk County.
‘To sequester’ is to isolate or to hide away. Carbon traps heat in our atmosphere, thus its sequestration helps to reduce global warming and mitigate climate change on a global scale. And as nature does not waste anything, there are benefits to be found in the process.
Natural or biological carbon dioxide can come from decomposing organic matter, land-use changes (like plowing) and forest fires, while man-made carbon dioxide comes from energy-generating processes such as burning coal, oil and natural gas. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon in soils and biomass (trees and plants). This is done through the natural (biological) process known as photosynthesis.
Light energy is captured by the chlorophyll in green plants and used to convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into oxygen that gets released back into the atmosphere, and energy-rich organic compounds released into the soils.
The sequestration occurs when a portion of that carbon gets stored in the roots of these plants, and the rest ends up in carbon pools underground in the soil.
Plant-rich landscapes like forests, rangelands and grasslands absorb about 25% of the global carbon emissions on our planet. The oceans absorb another 25% of our atmospheric carbon, but we will focus on biomass, soils and roots for now! Grasslands can sequester more carbon underground and when they burn, the carbon stays fixed in the roots and soil as opposed to leaves and woody biomass. In forests, when the trees, branches and leaves die and fall to the ground, they release most of the carbon they had stored into the soil through decomposition, but a fraction will escape back into the atmosphere.
The earthworms, fungus and bacteria found in the soils in forests, gardens and fields play a transformative role here and illustrate my point that nothing gets wasted in nature. The biomass that falls to the ground is a great source of food for these critters, who in turn break down this organic matter into nutrients and minerals for the soil. These nutrient rich soils will contribute to the health of the plants that grow in them.
The carbon that ends up locked into the soil in the pools holds long-term benefits for our planet (we’re talking over the course of thousands of years). It will transform into carbonates, when the carbon dissolves in water and percolates the soil, forming “caliche” in desert and arid soil, much like the landscape in Norfolk County (“my home and native sand”). What is caliche you ask? “Caliche is a shallow layer of soil or sediment that has been cemented together by the precipitation of calcium carbonate or other mineral material” (https://geology.com/rocks/caliche.shtml).
We value biodiversity here at Charlotteville, and understand its strategic qualities in slowing climate change. We find it’s best to host a wide range of species on our land, and to let them do what they do best. More than half our acreage at our Charlotteville farm and brewery is left natural; we greatly value the Carolinian forest and its ability in carbon sequestration. We have also planted a diverse range of plants that contribute to this strategy to reduce our carbon footprint. We have several species of native prairie grasses throughout our gardens and pollinator row to act in conjunction with our forests. All living things on our grounds do their part to heal the land. And as a result, we gain healthier soils that enrich all the plants we grow here.
Carbon sequestration can mitigate climate change in more ways than just reducing global warming. It can actually make us more resilient to extreme weather events that are brought on by climate change. As we have seen a little too often lately here in Norfolk County, we have been getting mass amounts of rainfall, and as a result we face flooding in our fields. The root systems that are strong and healthy will help to hold the soils in place. And as a result, less runoff of essential nutrients will occur.
Right here on our farm, our trees sequester carbon, and additionally act as a barrier against extreme winds and rain, saving our garden and hopyard from flooding and erosion. In our pollinator row, the roots of our prairie grasses will grow up to thirty feet deep, which greatly contribute to holding down our land from erosion. Our soils are rich in minerals and organic matter so we don’t need to use harmful chemicals or heavy machinery to tend to our crops. This is another way we reduce our carbon footprint on the farm. Compost and manure also start out as waste, but add great value to our soils and plants.
Our goal is to transform what could be overlooked as waste into something positive, following nature’s lead.
We all know the world is full of conflict right now and disconnection seems to be a common thread. It can be frustrating in the sense that we don’t know what actions to take for ourselves, our family, our neighbours and the rest of those facing struggles and violence across the world. When things are out of our control, the feeling of spinning our tires can be unsettling. When we think about nature’s efforts in regeneration, in striving to transform the bad into good, it makes us realize there is something bigger at play here if we just can tap into it. Nature knows what to do and has our back. If we can just focus our efforts in regenerative practices like carbon sequestration, the healing of our world is within our reach.
The purpose of some things is not obvious in the moment, but through time and effort, it can be transformed into fueling our future. Plant a garden, grow some positive habits and work with nature within your means to grow and heal. Be resilient in an uncertain world!
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is today.” (Chinese Proverb)
By: Ms. E. Hoey