Saturday, October 28, 2006

2006 National Carbon Forum Canberra 22/23 November

CARBON FORUMS: Christine Jones's 'Managing the Carbon Cycle' Kingaroy Forum was a huge success with around 90 people attending and some very good papers presented. Surely the best lineup of theoretical and practical talent on this topic. Areas covered included Terra Preta soils, regenerative grazing, pasture cropping, biodynamics, carbon farming, and soil biological processes. The National Forum in Canberra is on 22nd and 23rd November, 2006 (see

Coalition expanding its operations

REGIONAL ORGANISERS: We are inviting members to get more involved after a couple of people at Kingaroy offered to do something locally for us. Appeal reads: "Would you like to be a "Regional Organiser" for the Carbon Coalition? The role would not be very onerous. 1. Helping us to recruit new members in your locale, district or region. 2. Occasionally sending your local members an email about an event, etc. 3. Reporting to us any 'carbon' activity in your area - eg. scientific trials, new technologies introduced, etc."

MEGA-WEBSITE "SOIL-C-CENTRAL": We are floating a Global Web site dedicated to Soil Carbon. It aims to promote the benefits of Soil Carbon; To attract new members to the soil carbon community; To speed the uptake of new information throughout the community; To increase the influence of the community; Build closer links between environmentalists, farmers and scientists; Build closer links between students of soil carbon on different continents. WE need you to send us soft copies of research and academic papers, links to websites, and any news you find. This project will be as good as we make it. Content will include News: Upcoming events, conferences and courses; New research findings and papers; New research studies and timetables; New websites; New newsletters and publications. There will be a Library featuring Bibliographies - lists of publications, Academic papers, Articles, Interviews, and a YouTube video library. Links to other Websites and Blogs. There wilL also be Profiles of Members (voluntary), Notice Boards, Chat room, Online events and “Webinars”.

PRACTITIONER PROFILES: Rod Rush announced a great idea at the Kingaroy Carbon Forum: profiles and case studies on people like you or whom you know, who are doing things differently and getting results. These stories will be posted on the website. You will be sent a template for reporting to the Practitioner Profiler.

PUBLICITY OPPORTUNITY: The “WALK AGAINST WARMING” – the International Day of Action on Climate Change on Saturday, Nov 4th 2006 – offers the Carbon Coalition a BIG OPPORTUNITY. IT is a community event promoted by Channel 7’s Sunrise Program. It will be on in Sydney - 11am Martin Place (walk to Tarpeian Way next to Botanic Gardens) - and other cities (see Our opportunity is to take advantage of the media coverage of the Walk Against Warming to put Soil Carbon on the screen. We need to make the Media, Government, Govt. Agencies, Corporates and Potential Donors aware that we exist because they can help us achieve our goals. It is also an opportunity to register the Ecological Benefits of Soil Carbon Credits, change the image of the farming community, and to recruit new members. The plan we are suggesting is that we use this family-friendly event to capture the attention of people who can help us. By carrying placards on poles, above the heads of the crowd, our message will be televised to the world for FREE (we can afford that). The messages suggested by members for the banners include the following:

Farmers Fighting Greenhouse”Carbon Credits For Soils Now”

“Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming”

“Soils Can Save The World

“Soil Carbon Credits Save Soils”

“Soil Carbon Credits Restore Ecology”

“Soil Carbon Credits Save The Family Farm”

“Soil Carbon Credits Save Water”

“Soil Carbon Credits Stop Erosion”

“Soil Carbon Credits Stop Salination”

“Soils: short term CO2 solution”

The more banners we can have made (professionally) the better. We need carriers, so we need to recruit as many supporters and city-based members of the Coalition as possible. We’d like to have everyone wearing Akubra hats to signal the connection with the Land.

Would you be interested in carrying a banner and walking with us?



Flux and soil variability are thrown in our faces whenever we ask for trading units of soil carbon. But one important US scientist has broken ranks with his colleagues to argue for sanity to prevail: "It is often pointed out that soils have a large amount of variability, but with knowledge of soil sciences and landscapes, variability can be described and sampling protocols can be developed to deal with this," writes Dr John Kimble in a paper published this year*. "One reason I feel people say that soils vary and SOC cannot be measured is that we soil scientists focus on showing variability, not on showing what we know about the variability. In soils we can go to a 100m2 field and sample every square meter and look at the differences we find. But if you sample every tree in a large area you would see a similar variability." Dr Kimble works for the US Department of Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Service, National Soil Survey Centre, Lincoln, Nebraska. "We too often focus on this [variability], worry about laboratory precision and field variation and do not look at the real world where most things are based on averages and estimated data. We tend to focus on finding variation and not on using our knowledge of soil science to describe what we know. All systems vary, but in soils we focus on a level of precision and accuracy that may not have any relevance to the real world because we can take so many samples and look at the variation." We need a half dozen more like this.

*Kimble, J., "Advances In Models To Measure Soil Carbon: Can Soil Carbon Really Be Measured?", in Lal, R., Cerri, C., Bernoux, M., Etchevers, J., and Cerri, E., eds., Carbon Sequestration in Soils in Latin America, Food Products Press, Birmingham, NY, 2006

SoilS are for early sequestration

"Terrestrial C sequestration could have an immediate application in climate change mitigation due to its availability, relatively low cost, and associated environmental benefits." Said R.W. Izaurrable anbd C.W.Rice, "Methods and Tools for Designing a Pilot Soil Carbon Sequestraton Project", in Carbon Sequestration in Soils of Latin America, Lal et al. eds, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Climate change brings invasive trees

The Green movement say Australia was largely covered by forest when white man arrived, and that we should let it return to forest. But palentologists say things are a little more complicated. Global warming could be the cause of the rapid expansion of woody weeds and trees, according to Brian Fagan's study The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilisation. After the last Ice Age, during the long warming, open grasslands were invaded by trees at a rapid rate. Pollen records reveal that the grasslands that covered much of Europe during the last Ice Age became denser and more productive - then the trees came! Within 500 years birch forests covered much of England and Europe. "Experts believe that trees such as birch, pine, alder and hazel could advance at a rate of 1 to 2 kilometers a year over periods of five hundred to two thousand years," says Fagan. "In New Zealand, the southern beech was confined to a few sheltered locations during the late ice Age, whewn grassland and scrub covered most of the land. But the rapid warming at the end of the Ice Age had beeches completely replacing the open vegetation of earlier time within a mere three hundred years." The Green Movement now has a dilemma. Which past state of natural balance should we return to? Pre firestick farming, back before Cromagnon Man started using fire to encourage grasslands to grow sweet new shoots to attract grazing animals? Pre white arrival, before iron axes made clearing the trees easier? Fagan floats the idea of man-managed landscape 13 millenia ago: "Combine the nut harvest with systematic burning of brush and grasses to stimulate new growth and attract game and you have the elements of a carefully managed landscape." Does man have a place in Nature?

The Americans are asking themselves the same question.
The following is from Forest Landowner / Jan-Feb 1999 (found at


What did North America look like before Europeans arrived? One of our most popular, strongly held images is that of the “forest primeval.” We imagine a blanket of ancient forest, which nature maintained in equilibrium with the environment.

We also imagine native people who lived in the forests and on the plains without changing either ecosystem. Thus, another popular image is that of the ecologically invisible American Indian.

In fact, enormous areas of the continent’s forests and grasslands were very much cultural landscapes, shaped profoundly by human action.

At the time of European contact, many Indians were farmers. In the East and Southwest they raised maize, beans, pumpkins and squash to provide at least half their subsistence. Agriculture in the Americas originated more than 5,000 years ago. By 1500, indigenous people had cleared millions of acres for crops. Everywhere in the Americas they also regularly set fire to hundreds of millions of acres to improve game habitat, facilitate travel, reduce insect pests, remove cover for potential enemies, enhance conditions for berries and drive game.

Vast areas of the forest landscape in both the West and East were open, park-like stands shaped by frequent, low-intensity fires. In New England, Indians burned the woods twice a year. Roger Williams wrote that “this burning of the Wood to them they count a Benefit, both for destroying of vermin, and keeping downe the Weeds and thickets.” John Smith commented that in the forests around Jamestown, Virginia, “a man may gallop a horse amongst these woods any waie, but where the creeks and Rivers shall hinder.”

In many cases frequent forest burning created grasslands where forests otherwise would have existed. Prairies extended into Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York. In Virginia the vast prairie of the Shenandoah Valley covered more than 1,000 square miles. Ecologist R.C. Anderson writes that the eastern prairies and grasslands “would mostly have disappeared if it had not been for the nearly annual burning of these grasslands by the North American Indians.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming launched in USA

The Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming was launched in the USA last week (on last Friday night) at "Maplewood Farm", Highgate, Vermont. Present for the inaugural meeting were (from left to right) Ted Yandall of "Cimarron Farm", Stanton, Vermont, Abe Collins, Eric Nowel of "Maplewood Farm", Louisa and Michael Kiely, Ridgeway Shinn or Bakewell Reproductive Centre of Massachusetts, and Gerald Fry, grassfed beef geneticist of Arkansas. This marks the internationalisation of the Coalition and the next stage of the grassroots campaign to have soil carbon credits become a reality.
The Coalition now has the outline of a trading strategy which will be discussed with the Council in Australia prior to a launch towards the end of the year. (More on that later.)

Search for the Holy Grail: Soil C MMV*

*soil carbon sequestration MMV (measurement, monitoring and verification)

Our journey continues... FromDC to Montana to Texas to New Mexico to Vermont, then onto Columbus, Ohio and Chicago, then to San Diego, LA, then home... We have had such luck, miraculously passing through walls and getting in to see the people who are at the very core of the issue of soil carbon sequestration MMV (measurement, monitoring and verification). The most significant figure in the soil C science field anywhere in the world (so significant his colleagues had to create an award to recognise his contribution) is Dr Rattan Lal, author of a small library of books and papers, co-author of many others, Professor of Soil Physics at the School of Natural Resources at Ohio State University, Columbus OH. He is a softly-spoken gentleman who exudes knowledge like a perennial plant's root system exudes the raw materials of soil carbon. He gave us many insights which we will share with you in a later post. Suffice it to say, the penny dropped! Dr Lal started his career working in Australia, at Sydney University, in the early 1970s. We also met Dr Lal's colleague from Germany, Dr Klause Lorenz whose research throws the glomalin issue into question. He knows of a myriad of constituents of soil carbon and his work is focussed on the most stable carbon stored in deep layers of soils.
"Abe of Vermont", our first American member, was as inspiring to meet as was Dr Lal. Abe Collins has largely taught himself an amazing amount about soil management. Much of his knowledge is unconventional, bordering on the 'plumb loco'. But he is living everyday with the soil, listening to the landscape, and observing the rhythms of the soil biota so he has an advantage over more casual observers. He share farms on a dairy at Stanton, Vermont. He uses (and teaches) holistic management, keyline farming and subsoil irrigation. You'll also hear more about this remarkable fellow and his inspiring family in an upcoming post.

Dr Brian McPherson, from the New Mexico Institute of Technology in Socorro, heads up the Southwest Regional Partnership, one of seven regional partnerships charged with evaluating available technologies to capture and to reduce CO2 emissions. The Partnership encompasses: Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, and portions of Kansas, Nevada, Texas, and Wyoming. The partners represent 21 State government agencies and universities, electric utilities, oil and gas companies, non-governmental organizations, the Navajo Nation, and federal agencies. We attended the Partnership's Phase 2 Workshop in Albuqurque, New Mexico, and heard presentations from their geologic and terrestrial (soil) sequestration experts. Dr McPherson invited us to address the gathering of 60 or so scientists and we shared with them some of the aggressive carbon farming techniques developed by Australian 'farmer scientists'. (More of that later.)

Dr Joel Brown and Dr Jay Angerer are the 'soil carbon sequestration' experts with the Southwest Partnership. Joel was on our list of 'must see' people. He has spent 7 years working in Australia. Joel and Jay were the best-dressed soil scientists we met in the USA. Their project involves riparian zone reclamation in arid and semiarid regions. A full report on the core content of our study tour will be published here as soon as we have a moment to write it up.

SNEAK PREVIEW OF FINDINGS: Don't wait for scientific exactitude. Just do it.