THE CARBON COMMUNITY BLOG

The Carbon Community launches a landmark Carbon Study

Today The Carbon Community is unveiling our landmark carbon study. The project aims to uncover a new reforestation approach, rooted in science, to accelerate and enhance the sequestration of carbon in trees and soil to tackle the climate crisis.

The study is designed and run in partnership with leading scientists from ETH Zürich Crowther Lab; Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield; The Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London; and The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

More than 25,000 new trees have been planted on 11 hectares (28 acres) in Glandwr Forest, Carmarthenshire, Wales, in a field trial combining two nature-based climate solutions never previously deployed together at scale. The project will assess the combined effects of forest microbiome inoculation* and the deployment of enhanced rock weathering**, and their ability to accelerate and enhance forest carbon sequestration in conifer monoculture and mixed broadleaf forests.

Over the first two years, the project will measure the carbon stored in the trees and soil, and the results will identify the combination of treatments where the most carbon has been sequestered.

The Carbon Community carbon study is the first of its kind and the results will be made freely available to other tree planting projects and environmental scientists. The 72 test cell trial will study two types of forests: the first is comprised of native broadleaf species from Wales, including Birch, Alder, Cherry, Oak, Aspen and Rowan. The second type is a monoculture conifer forest comprising Sitka Spruce, typical of commercial forestry plantations.

This study intentionally reintroduces soil microbial and mycorrhizal communities sourced from established forest ecosystems in an effort to jump start reforestation.

“This is an important world-first field trial which will measure carbon sequestered in trees and soil on a scope and scale not seen before. Studies continue to find that introduction of native soil communities can dramatically increase plant survival.1 How these fungi may in turn affect tree seedling growth and survival rates and ecosystem carbon sequestration at scale remains unknown, and is one example of how The Carbon Community is pushing the frontiers of nature-based climate solutions.” Dr Colin Averill, Senior Scientist at the Crowther Lab

Professor David Beerling, University of Sheffield said “Our recent research revealed that applying basalt to croplands could absorb up to 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. This exciting new partnership with The Carbon Community enables us to understand basalt addition in a reforestation project, including the potential carbon sequestration when co-deployed with forest microbiome restoration. To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to urgently scale-up carbon removal strategies, alongside deep emissions cuts.”

The project builds on recent studies, which continue to find that soil microbiome inoculation with native mycorrhizal fungi from established ecosystems can dramatically increase plant survival.1  Basalt also contains nutrients that stimulates mycorrhizal fungi and can support tree growth.2  Enhanced rock weathering takes crushed basalt, a mining by-product, and applies it to the soil to capture CO2 and provide essential nutrients to fertilize trees. This method, proven in sugarbeet and pea crops, was recently hailed as one of the best near-term ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.3

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “This is a critical time for nature. If we are going to tackle the interconnected nature and climate crises and turn the tide on decades of biodiversity decline, we need to act now to ensure the resilience of our planet’s life support system. We all stand to benefit from committing to nature’s recovery, and woodland creation can play a significant role in long term carbon sequestration for future generations. NRW lends its full support to this exciting initiative as a key component to accelerating our approach to tackling the climate crisis.”

The Carbon Community is a new charity dedicated to creating forests and accelerating carbon removal, with breakthrough science. Our planting and restoration projects are designed, in partnership with world leading scientists, to learn more about how to accelerate and enhance carbon sequestration. We are committed to sharing the study’s findings as widely as possible to increase carbon sequestration in its own projects and beyond.

If you are a volunteer, donor or scientist who wants to help us scale up tree planting and advance the research on carbon in trees and soil, do get in touch!

You can access our full Press Release here.

*Forest microbiome / soil microbiome – Complex community of soil bacteria and fungi, integral to how trees obtain soil resources and grow. Mycorrhizal fungi form part of the soil microbiome. These extraordinary fungi live in a mutually beneficial partnership with trees – the trees provide carbohydrates from photosynthesis to the fungi, and the fungi provide soil nutrients to the trees. While mining the soil for nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, the fungi pump carbon into the soil and suppress decomposers that would release carbon back into the air.

**Enhanced Rock Weathering – A natural geological process which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The addition of basalt to the soil has the potential to dramatically increase the carbon removal and accelerate the establishment of new forests.

References

1.     Wubs, E., van der Putten, W., Bosch, M. etal. Soil inoculation steers restoration of terrestrialecosystems. Nature Plants 2, 16107 (2016).

2.     Battles, J.J., Fahey, T.J., Driscoll,C.T., Blum, J.D. & Johnson, C.E. (2104). Restoring Soil Calcium ReversesForest Decline. Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 1, 15–19.

3.     Beerling, D.J.,Kantzas, E.P., Lomas, M.R. et al. Potential for large-scale CO2 removalvia enhanced rock weathering with croplands. Nature 583, 242–248(2020).