What is carbon sequestration?
Carbon sequestration is the biological process of transferring and storing atmospheric CO2 as part of the soil or vegetation. Terrestrial ecosystems can act as either a sink or a source of carbon. Globally, soils act as an important carbon sink and contain vast quantities of plant, animal and microbial residues in various stages of decomposition. It has been estimated that soils store more carbon than the atmospheric and living vegetation pools combined. Temperate grasslands such as those in Ireland, have major potential for carbon sequestration, which is important for climate change mitigation and meeting GHG reduction targets. However, there are still research gaps surrounding the baseline soil carbon values and the rates and permanence of carbon sequestered in different soil fractions.
The National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory
In 2021, The National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory (NASCO) was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Establishment is underway and when complete, NASCO will consist of 10 Eddy Covariance Flux Towers located on various agricultural sites including grasslands, mineral soils and peatlands. This will add depth and value to existing research projects including Teagasc Sign Post farms and the Agricultural Catchments Programme. NASCO will also place Ireland at the forefront of EU carbon sequestration research and will enable:
- Evaluation of the rate of carbon sequestration in temperate pastures, according to climate, soil and agricultural management practices
- Improved quantification and modelling of soil carbon emissions and sinks from agricultural land
- Enabling mitigation measures to increase carbon sequestration to be included in the national inventory
- Allow for participation in the EU ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) network