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Arb notes: the role of conservation in the climate crisis

Earlier this month, the Minnesota chapter of the Nature Conservancy released a report on the state of the climate crisis in Minnesota. While the data are startling—in fifty years, Minnesota summers will likely feel like those of Kansas today—the report also offers hope. Specifically, it outlines 13 natural climate solutions to help combat climate change. Most of these 13 practices are already well-integrated in current Arboretum management. 

Natural climate solutions refer to conservation and restoration methods that increase carbon storage through natural processes. This includes preventative measures, such as avoiding forest conversion, as well as restorative practices, such as reforestation. With forests, wetlands, grasslands, and even a slice of agriculture the Arboretum retains some valuable landscapes and restores others, acting as a front line of defense against climate change. 

The key to natural climate solutions is carbon sequestration. When new students plant trees at the beginning of each year, they increase the above-and-below ground biomass of the landscape. Carbon is stored in biomass—newly planted trees will continue to sequester carbon dioxide as they grow and photosynthesize over the years.

Similarly, restoring Arboretum prairies increases carbon storage. One of the more efficient methods of carbon sequestration, grasslands deposit carbon into deep soil layers through extensive root systems, some up to 15 feet deep. Because carbon sequestration increases with soil depth, grasslands are an important contributor to stable carbon pools.

State-wide, the potential impact of natural climate solutions is massive. Implemented to their full scale, NCS could offset carbon emissions by 26 million metric tons. That is equivalent to shuttering seven coal power plants and represents 16 percent of Minnesota’s total 2005 emissions. These solutions are powerful. With its dedication to restoration and conservation, Arboretum management plays a small part in the state’s fight against climate change.

The full climate report can be found on the Minnesota Nature Conservancy website:

https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/minnesota/

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