The Department of the Interior has released its first in a series of regional studies measuring the amount of carbon stored in U.S. ecosystems. The study covers an area of the United States that includes parts of fourteen states from eastern Montana to southern Texas and eastern Iowa. The study applies a comprehensive methodology designed by the USGS in 2010 to assess how much carbon is stored in various ecosystems, such as wetlands, forests and rangelands.
A key finding in the Great Plains study is that the region is currently an overall “carbon sink,” meaning it takes up more carbon than it emits. In addition, the amount of carbon sequestered offsets most of the emissions of nitrous oxide and methane from this region. Next the USGS is expected to release studies on the western, eastern, Alaskan and Hawaiian regions. The full national assessment is expected to be completed around 2013.
Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes says – this is truly groundbreaking research that, for the first time, takes a landscape-level look at how our lands naturally store carbon and explores how we can encourage this capability in ways that enhance our stewardship of natural resources. Hayes notes our landscapes are helping us to absorb carbon emissions that would otherwise contribute to atmospheric warming.