Our California Soil

Posted by on January 31, 2018

Californians – we love our redwoods.

We love other native trees, too. As you drive over the Grapevine, think about the Valley Oaks at Tejon Ranch, with their intricate silhouettes. Think of the Owens Valley and the twinkling silver dollars on the Cottonwood tree and the solitary red-barked Madrone.

Our trees are not only beautiful — they are the leading soldiers in the fight against climate change.

Through photosynthesis, trees grab CO2 out of thin air and use its carbon to build its trunk and limbs and leaves. Perhaps least understood (and least celebrated) is how carbon is transported by roots to the soil – how microbes grab and store carbon underground.

Photosynthesis is our greatest hope for capturing and storing carbon – and thus averting the worst effects of climate change. No human-made machine can capture as efficiently what 100 quadrillion blades of grass do naturally.

Mother Nature has a superb record in righting wrongs – and this is not lost on the State of California, which has launched a Healthy Soils Initiative. Using cap-and-trade dollars, the state has awarded $3 million to sixty-four farm and rangeland projects dedicated to enhancing storage of carbon in California soil.

The initial projects are highly promising – but so much more needs to be done.

California’s recent five-year drought resulted in 105 million tree deaths in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Add the recent wildfires, and beetle attacks, and California’s forests are today a net-emitter of greenhouse gas emissions rather than a carbon sink.

The impacts from climate change are out-pacing nature’s ability to sequester carbon.

Nature needs a hand – so that nature can help us.

Are you in?

Jonathan Parfrey