UMaine’s Natural Climate Solutions Initiative releases interim report on Maine land sector’s greenhouse gas mitigation potential
The University of Maine Natural Climate Solutions Initiative has released an interim report that explores approaches for mitigating the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through management in forestry and agriculture.
Natural climate solutions (NCS) are conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in landscapes and wetlands. The report focuses on using Maine’s farms and working forests to optimize future carbon sequestration rates and reduce GHG emissions, and evaluates how the price of carbon influences the outcome.
The report evaluates the potential of several alternative NCS to decrease GHG, which include reforestation, planting fast-growing tree species and extended rotations in forests, as well as no-till cultivation, cover cropping and capturing methane from manure on farms. Both the cost and effectiveness of these various approaches were compared to standard business-as-usual practices.
Forest NCS practices were found to cost between $10–$20 per ton carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), which is relatively inexpensive compared to most non-NCS options. Various scenarios are possible that combine practices with different outcomes. For example, increasing the intensity of active forest management, coupled with permanently conserving 20% of the total forest area in Northern Maine could increase carbon sequestration by about 3.1 million metric tons CO2e at a cost of $34 million per year, which equals about 18% of Maine’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The study also found that this approach made it possible to increase sequestration and maintain a sustainable fiber supply — a win-win opportunity.
For agriculture, Maine’s farmers could collectively amend their soil with biochar, reduce their tillage intensity, plant riparian buffers and utilize anaerobic digesters to manage dairy manure waste. This could theoretically result in the agricultural sector in Maine being able to completely offset its current emissions and potentially be net negative. This combined set of NCS is estimated to mitigate up to 0.8 million metric tons CO2e per year at a cost $26.3 million per year, or about $34/tCO2e.
The initiative is led by Adam Daigneault, the E.L. Giddings Assistant Professor of Forest, Conservation, and Recreation Policy at UMaine. Funding was provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Maine Farmland Trust, and the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, with administrative support from the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests.
“Our analysis indicates that Maine’s natural and working lands could play a significant role in helping the state be carbon neutral by 2045, or even earlier. However, there is no single practice or land use that we can rely on to achieve that goal, and we should thus keep all options on the table at this point,” says Daigneault.
Going forward, the team will meet and survey forest owners and land managers, large commercial potato and blueberry growers, and operators of small diversified farms about whether the identified solutions can work in the real world. Additional scenarios will be assessed and outreach materials developed.
For this effort, Daigneault teams with five other University of Maine colleagues: Ivan Fernandez, professor of soil science; Aaron Weiskittel, professor of forest modeling and director of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests; Erin Simons-Legaard, assistant research professor in forest landscape modeling; Sonja Birthisel, postdoctoral research associate and lecturer; and Jennifer Carroll, Ph.D. student.
The report, fact sheets and supplemental files are available on the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests’ Forest Climate Change Initiative website.
Contact: Adam Daigneault, email@example.com; 207.581.2805