Emission Reduction

Harnessing the Biosphere

Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change through Agriculture and Forestry

Agriculture and forestry are indispensable sectors, weaving the fabric of our ecological and food supply systems. However, they also play a vital role in emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs), casting a shadow over our climate. A nuanced understanding of the biogenic carbon cycle and how human activities tip its natural balance is pivotal to unveil the intricate dynamics of GHGs emissions in these sectors.

The Biogenic Carbon Cycle Explained

The biogenic carbon cycle represents the natural flow of carbon between the atmosphere and living organisms. Forests, plants, and oceans capture carbon dioxide (CO2) during photosynthesis, storing it as biomass. This process is known as carbon sequestration. When plants and animals respire, die, or are consumed, carbon is released back into the atmosphere, maintaining a balance.

  • Sequestration: Annually, around 100 gigatons (Gt) of carbon are sequestered by terrestrial ecosystems, mainly through photosynthesis.

  • Re-emission: About 105 Gt of carbon are released back into the atmosphere due to respiration, decomposition, and human activities such as deforestation and burning of biomass.

Agriculture and Forestry: Disruptors of the Balance

Activities in agriculture and forestry disrupt the natural equilibrium of the biogenic carbon cycle:

  • Deforestation: Clearing forests for agriculture and urbanization decreases the total biomass available to sequester carbon, reducing the earth’s capacity to store carbon.

  • Agricultural Practices: Modern agricultural practices, including the extensive use of fertilizers and changes in land use, augment the release of GHGs like methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

  • Livestock Rearing: Methane emitted by livestock through enteric fermentation and manure management further tips the balance, increasing the overall GHG emissions.

Consequences of the Imbalance

The imbalance between sequestration and re-emission intensifies the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, enhancing the natural greenhouse effect. Human activities in agriculture and forestry exacerbate this imbalance, contributing to an accelerated rate of global warming and climate change.

Harnessing the Biosphere

To restore balance to the biogenic carbon cycle:

  • Regenerative Agriculture: This involves adopting farming practices that regenerate the soil and improve its biodiversity, enhancing its carbon sequestration capacity. Practices such as cover cropping, conservation tillage, and crop rotation are pivotal in this approach.

  • Circular Economy: Embracing a circular economy approach involves minimizing waste and making the most of resources. In agriculture and forestry, this could mean utilizing waste products for energy, compost, or other purposes, thus reducing emissions.

  • Carbon Storage in Bio-based Materials and Products: Storing carbon in bio-based materials and products, such as timber and agricultural residues, delays re-emission. This approach involves using these materials to develop sustainable products, effectively trapping carbon for extended periods.

  • Innovation in Sequestration: Exploring and investing in innovative methods for capturing and storing carbon, beyond traditional practices, is crucial. Techniques such as enhanced rock weathering and blue carbon sequestration in marine ecosystems can be explored further.


Avoiding emissions is a more cost-effective and efficient approach compared to capturing them post-release. The biosphere, with its natural processes like photosynthesis and innovative strategies like regenerative agriculture and a circular economy, holds significant promise in mitigating climate change. By valuing and investing in these natural processes and innovative approaches, we can unlock the immense potential of agriculture and forestry sectors in leading the way towards a sustainable, balanced, and resilient planet.