Switch from cattle fields to 'carbon farms' could tackle climate change, save endangered animals cheaply

April 28, 2014, University of Sheffield

(Phys.org) —Changing cattle fields to forests is a cheap way of tackling climate change and saving species threatened with extinction, a new study has found.

Researchers from leading universities, including the University of Sheffield, carried out a survey of , biodiversity and economic values from one of the world's most threatened ecosystems, the western Andes of Colombia.

The main use of land in communities is cattle farming, but the study found farmers could make the same or more money by allowing their land to naturally regenerate.

Under markets designed to stop global warming, they could get paid to change the use of their land from growing cows to 'growing carbon' – receiving around US$1.99 per tonne of carbon dioxide the trees remove from the atmosphere.

The move would also help boost the populations of many .

There are limited financial resources available to tackle and , so there is an urgent need to simultaneously address both issues.

"This would cost very little money," said senior scientist, Dr David Edwards, of the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.

"Providing people are willing to spend the money, this could be a critical mechanism for stopping climate change and protecting some of the world's most .

"The economic benefits of cattle farming are minimal, so this is a way farmers could make the same, if not more money. The land would be rented off farmers for 30 years and they would be paid for the carbon grown.

"We studied older forests that are around 20-30 years old and found they had recovered around half of the carbon of a really mature forest. More carbon comes back every single year, and as it does so, large numbers of highly threatened species return.

"The impact on reducing the biodiversity extinction crisis and climate change could be huge."

The study also found that letting forests regenerate had a massive impact on the populations of threatened species.

In secondary forests in the region, researchers found 33 of 40 red-listed bird species that are threatened with extinction. However, in cattle pastures there were only 11.

Lead researcher Dr James Gilroy from the University of East Anglia's school of Environmental Sciences carried out the research while at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

He said: "This research shows that there are great environmental and ecological benefits to changing land use from cattle farming to forest, and there may even be financial benefits too.

"If these areas were instead allowed to regenerate to forest, then significant amounts of would be captured from the atmosphere. Biodiversity would also be restored, improving habitats for many species at risk of extinction – all at minimal cost.

"It's a win-win situation."

Explore further: Quarter of Europe's bumblebee species risk extinction, study says

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Steve 200mph Cruiz
3.8 / 5 (6) Apr 28, 2014
Not only is environmental stewardship a virtue, I can hardly imagine anything more aristocratic than not even needing to use land for monetary purposes. As gluttony is a sin, conservation is humility. Good luck to this program, and whatever critter (including humans) it benefits.
1 / 5 (6) Apr 28, 2014
Yup, this planet need less food production and more carbon sinks. Well nourished children are a blight on this planet. All hail Profit Al Gore.
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 28, 2014
Everywhere that religion forces women to do nothing but make and raise babies there is unremittant starvation, suffering, revolt and war. If religionists would choose to live within their means there would be more than enough food to go around, and abortion would be rare indeed.

Religions cause children to suffer. The religions which have survived are the ones most efficient at outgrowing and overrunning their enemies. Starving children are the necessary element for compelling their parents to invade their neighbors and take what they so desperately need.

Toward the end of her life mother teresa famously lost her faith, no doubt because she had come to the realization that the church itself was directly responsible for just the kind of crushing misery that she was trying to alleviate.
4.4 / 5 (8) Apr 28, 2014
Yup, this planet need less food production and more carbon sinks. Well nourished children are a blight on this planet. All hail Profit Al Gore.

The above article articulates a solution that can be used alone, or in combination with other practices(like AGROFORESTRY --look it up), depending on local environmental conditions. This is indeed a win-win approach.

And, in case you weren't aware of the brutal facts of the matter, virtually all cattle production worldwide ends up on the tables of the developed world, and has never been a solution to the shameful problem of millions of undernourished, malnourished or starving babies, children, and adults the world over, which is something you would already know if you weren't enslaved by your parasitic, predatory freemarket ideology.

Which just goes to show that you don't believe in a free market economy in the first place -otherwise you would recognize this as an example of the very thing.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2014
The world already produces enough food to feed the world 1.5 times over. Your heart is in the right place, but your wallet is still in your back pocket.

4 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2014
Yup, this planet need less food production and more carbon sinks. Well nourished children are a blight on this planet. All hail Profit Al Gore.
Nice strawman.
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2014
Yup, this planet need less food production and more carbon sinks. Well nourished children are a blight on this planet. All hail Profit Al Gore.

It takes about 13 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. You could ensure the nourishment of many children by switching to vegetarianism. It would also conserve water, fuel and land.

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