Tag Archives: Biosphere Reserve

Druids Making the Rounds – Carbon cycling is a process

The Sierra Gorda mountain range has been a living laboratory for social, economic and ecological crisis solutions from the very beginning, 25 years ago.   In the last few years, the rural highland producers have gotten profoundly involved in a holistic journey to restore the land and ecosystem services by putting value on land managament practices and introducing Holistic Management, Keyline Design, no or low till, as well as the production and application of bio-fertilizers, active composts and microorganisms with the technical expertise of Bosque Sustentable A.C. (Sustainable Forest Civil Association).

Last year we contacted Peter Donovan, the visionary leader of a grassroots baseline Soil Carbon study across North America. The workshop in the Sierra Gorda Earth Center installations in Jalpan had a major impact on all the participants by speaking plainly about the relationship between water, carbon and soil. Peter began a competition called The Soil Carbon Challenge and took a detour into the heart of Mexico, you can see the report in the Sustainable Forest Facebook page  BSAC logo

“To advance the practice, and engage people in the opportunity, of turning atmospheric carbon into soil organic matter (oxidize less, photosynthesize more).” Soil Carbon Coalition

Carbon Cycling is a Process

Guest blog by Peter Donovan (originally published at soilcarboncoalition.org Tue, 04/05/2011 – 5:06pm)

The current situation over much of the world is this:

1. There is not enough carbon (organic matter) in and on the soil.

2. There is not enough water in the soil.

These two facts mean desertification and food insecurity, as well as a predisposition to both flooding and drought. As the Earth IQ quiz on the right hand side explains, soils hold more carbon and more water than the atmosphere, vegetation, and rivers combined. 3. There is too much carbon in the atmosphere. (Carbon dioxide and methane (CH4) are the second and third most powerful greenhouse gases.) 4. There is too much water in the atmosphere. (Water is the number one greenhouse gas. It precipitates unpredictably.) The first two combine with the second two to form a vicious circle, with reinforcing feedback. The more water and carbon in the atmosphere, the less in the soil, generally. The less the soil is able to hold water and carbon, and grow protective and productive vegetation, the more water and carbon in the atmosphere. Both water and carbon cycles are accelerated. The only exit from the vicious circle is to get more carbon in the soil. Water will follow. If this can occur, the vicious circle turns virtuous (transformational change). The more water and carbon in the soil, the less in the atmosphere, and so on. Technology isn’t well adapted to turning atmospheric carbon into soil carbon. Biology is well adapted, but it’s a process, neither a quick fix nor a programmatic one. This poses a problem for institutions, organizations, markets, and government agencies who may wish to increase soil carbon. But it is an opportunity for land managers of all kinds, particularly those who want to work with biosphere processes such as the carbon cycle, water cycle, and succession, rather than against them. When dealing with biological and social processes, direct action typically results in backlash or unanticipated side effects. What are more powerful are the selective forces we can put in place. If we routinely spray glyphosate, for example, we are selecting for resistant weeds. If we let livestock remain on one pasture all season, we may be selecting for weedy, unpalatable plants and bare ground. If a boss favors employees who tell him what he likes to hear, he selects for words, not actions. Selective forces are powerful allies when dealing with biological and human processes. These selective forces include: Goals. Negative, problem-based goals, or managing against what we don’t want, typically selects for a continuation of the problem. A positive goal, managing for what we want, can be a powerful selective force, particularly when combined with monitoring. Opportunities. Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) wrote that rational argument or proofs seldom change scientific paradigms. What changes them are opportunities to address new questions and new challenges. Reward systems are also selective forces. A very powerful selective force can be the opportunity for consumers, for example, to opt out of a dysfunctional or unsustainable system (e.g. by buying pasture raised meats and milk). An opportunity for farmers and ranchers may be to opt out of an input-output production system that puts them at the mercy of suppliers and commodity markets. Monitoring. This can influence our selection of choices and management strategies. What is working toward our goal, what isn’t? With complex systems that don’t have determined outcomes, such as most of biology and human affairs, monitoring is essential to creativity and innovation. Facilitating shifts in beliefs and behaviors. What we believe, and how we behave, are primary selective forces in everything we do. Education, awareness, and creating a safe environment for people to make shifts are incredibly important, especially as the “us versus them” polarity frequently encountered in human conflicts greatly restricts creativity and keeps us in a frame of managing AGAINST what we do not want. These aren’t separate strategies, but are interdependent. The Soil Carbon Challenge involves all of them. We hope you can get involved.

Fin.

Reference this video about the Challenge underway in the USA:

Community-Organized World Heritage Site Sierra Gorda Announces First Carbon Project in Mexico to Earn VCS, CCB Gold Validation

Community-Organized World Heritage Site Sierra Gorda Announces First Carbon Project in Mexico to Earn VCS, CCB Gold Validation

Sierra Gorda obtiene validaciones ecológicas internacionales El 26 julio, 2011 (Equilibrio Magazine, Mexico)

Mexican Farmers Access Carbon Market

A conservation project in Mexico’s Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves, has become the first carbon project in Mexico to receive validation under two emerging global carbon market standards: the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. Theproject attained a gold level of approval, CCB’s highest rating, for exceptional climate change adaptation, community and biodiversity benefits.

 “These validations are an international recognition of the reforestation work being done by the farmers of the Sierra Gorda,” said Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo, general director of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, one of the organizations responsible for the project. “It is a very important step forward in our work to provide alternatives for local farmers and strengthen the economy of conservation in the Sierra Gorda.”

“Validation under these standards demonstrates the integrity of Sierra Gorda’s offsets and the overall value of the efforts to restore ecosystems, preserve biodiversity, alleviate poverty and sequester carbon in the Reserve,” said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, which was the first donor for carbon offsets under this project.

The project involves the establishment of small reforestations by farmers in the Reserve and its area of influence to help combat climate change while providing benefits to local communities and helping to conserve biodiversity. While this project involves tree-planting, the Sierra Gorda organizations are also pioneering efforts to develop ecosystem markets for other ecological values of the Sierra, which acts as a massive water filter for downstream areas and supports valuable biodiversity.

The reforestations are monitored to quantify the amount of carbon dioxide being captured as part of the natural process of tree growth. Bosque Sustentable then offers “carbon offsets” in national and international voluntary carbon markets.  Organizations, businesses and individuals can choose to offset emissions that they cannot otherwise reduce by making a donation to Bosque Sustentable, which in turn pays small farmers to plant and manage trees to capture a corresponding amount of carbon dioxide.  Currently, such offsets can be purchased in voluntary markets, but Mexico is likely to be the first country encompassed for offsets under any U.S. state or federal system.

A unique feature of this project is that it involves large numbers of small reforestations, on parcels as small as .5 hectare, which allows the Sierra Gorda project to involve individual farmers in conditions of poverty in very remote areas. Through 2013, the project will include a total of 289 small reforestations with a total of 305.7 hectares.

“This is a major milestone for Sierra Gorda, which has been a pioneer in the voluntary offsets market for many years and now has the independent validation that confirms the solid technical design and carbon accounting behind their reforestation efforts,” said Jacob Olander of Forest Trends.

“The Bosque Sustentable project represents a forest carbon project of the highest quality,” said Jeff Hayward, director of the Climate Program of the Rainforest Alliance. “It offers significant benefits to both local communities and biodiversity in addition to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration in the growth of planted trees. This project will serve as a model for the development of future small-scale forest carbon projects in Mexico and internationally.”

The project was launched in 1997 by Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, I.A.P, and is now operated by Bosque Sustentable, A.C. Forest Trends, an international organization focused on ecosystem markets, supported the project´s design and validation through its Katoomba Incubator, while the Rainforest Alliance was the organization that carried out the external validation. For more information about the variety of ecosystem services projects being implemented in the Sierra Gorda and about how to use Sierra Gorda carbon offsets, please visit www.sierragorda.net.