Terrestrial CCS Approaches


Terrestrial carbon capture and storage (CCS) involves storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere in soils and plant biomass such as tree trunks, branches, foliage, and roots.

Soils Management in Grazing Lands and Croplands

CCS through soils is done by increasing organic matter combined with reduction in ground disturbance such as tilling, reducing erosion, and moderating the exposure to a microbial environment (i.e. water, air, temperatures, and microbes, etc.) that will break down and release carbon. There are several methods that can increase soil organic carbon in both grazing and croplands.Land management practices for increasing carbon storage in grazing and cropland soils include: plant residue management, improving the use of fertilizers, application of organic manure, regular use of prescribed burns to increase forage productivity, and improving grazing practices (EPA "Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration Report, 2011).

Forest Management

Effective management practices that enhance forest growth offer one of the most ways to store carbon in terrestrial systems. Through the process of photosynthesis, atmospheric CO2 is taken up by the trees and stored as biomass in the trunk, leaves, roots, and branches. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that globally, changes in forest management could offset 15-20% of global CO2 emissions. Sustainable forest management activities that limit deforestation and improve overall forest health can greatly increase terrestrial CCS potential.

Carbon Markets

Terrestrial CCS also provides the opportunity to trade carbon credits and reduce emissions voluntarily. In other words, carbon captured and stored by one party could be purchased and offset by another emission-producing party. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have looked at developing accounting rules for CCS projects and improving the voluntary Greenhouse Gas (GHG) registry and crediting system. While carbon markets have been slow to materialize in the United States, carbon "cap-and-trade" programs are increasingly being advanced as one policy tool to reduce global CO2 emissions. To read more about carbon emissions trading and market incentives, click here.