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Evaluating Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration Options for Virginia

Galang, Jeffrey S., Zipper, Carl E., Prisley, Stephen P., Galbraith, John M., Donovan, Patricia F.
Environmental management 2007 v.39 no.2 pp. 139-150
afforestation, agricultural land, atmosphere, carbon, carbon sequestration, crops, databases, emissions, energy, forests, land management, models, soil, spatial data, tillage, Virginia
Changes in forest and agricultural land management practices have the potential to increase carbon (C) storage by terrestrial systems, thus offsetting C emissions to the atmosphere from energy production. This study assesses that potential for three terrestrial management practices within the state of Virginia, USA: afforestation of marginal agricultural lands; afforestation of riparian agricultural lands; and changing tillage practices for row crops; each was evaluated on a statewide basis and for seven regions within the state. Lands eligible for each practice were identified, and the C storage potential of each practice on those lands was estimated through a modeling procedure that utilized land-resource characteristics represented in Geographic Information System databases. Marginal agricultural lands' afforestation was found to have the greatest potential (1.4 Tg C yr-¹, on average, over the first 20 years) if applied on all eligible lands, followed by riparian afforestation (0.2 Tg C yr-¹ over 20 years) and tillage conversion (0.1 Tg C yr-¹ over 14 years). The regions with the largest potentials are the Ridge and Valley of western Virginia (due to extensive areas of steep, shallow soils) and in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain in eastern Virginia (wet soils). Although widespread and rapid implementation of the three modeled practices could be expected to offset only about 3.4% of Virginia's energy-related CO₂ emissions over the following 20 years (equivalent to about 8.5% of a Kyoto Treaty-based target), they could contribute to achievement of C-management goals if implemented along with other mitigation measures.