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Mitigation Opportunities

Mitigation focuses on reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that cause climate change. Systems may need help adapting to climate change, but they already play a crucial role in mitigation efforts. When managing ecosystems, greenhouse gas mitigation can be incorporated as a management goal, similar to goals for improving water quality or providing recreation opportunities. Mitigation options for land management include reducing the amount of carbon emissions by storing or sequestering additional carbon, providing renewable energy from biomass, or avoiding carbon losses. 

Many land and animal management technologies and practices can help reduce GHG emissions. USDA provides information to help land managers assess which mitigation technologies and practices might be appropriate to their operation.

Agricultural Sector

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Options and Costs for Agricultural Land and Animal Production within the United States

U.S. agriculture consists of more than 2 million farms that collectively manage more than 922 million acres of cropland, grassland pasture, and range. These farms exhibit immense diversity across a wide array of economic, production, socio-demographic, geographic, and environmental characteristics. This diversity can and will affect where and when farms choose to adopt specific technologies and practices that mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The primary purpose of this report is to identify and describe specific technologies and practices that farmers could adopt in their crop and livestock production systems and in their land management decisions that would result in net greenhouse gas mitigation. For each technology or practice considered the report contains:

  1. A detailed technical description of the technology or practice;
  2. Estimates of farm-level costs for implementing the technology or practice for a set of “representative” farms;
  3. Estimates of the farm-level GHG mitigation potential associated with adoption; and
  4. Estimates of the GHG incentive levels that various representative farms would require to consider adoption of the technology or practice a break-even undertaking (called the break-even price).

While the focus is on technologies and practices that have readily available data on farm-level cost and GHG reduction potential, the report also contains qualitative descriptions of a number of potential GHG mitigation technologies and practices for which insufficient data exists to estimate break-even prices.

Managing Agricultural Land for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation within the United States.

This report presents an analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential associated with changes in U.S. agricultural management practices. Marginal abatement cost curves (MACCs) are developed that illustrate how much GHG mitigation various sets of U.S. crop and livestock producers could supply across a schedule of mitigation incentives. Separate MACCs focus on incentivizing specific changes in technologies and practices in animal production systems, cropland systems, land management, and rangeland and pastureland management.

Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory

America’s farm, ranch and forest managers are stewards of the land, and have long recognized the significance of managing soil health, plant productivity and animal nutrition. Conservation practices and other management changes can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase carbon storage while improving soil health, crop or livestock productivity, and resilience to drought and other extreme weather.  This report lays out methods for estimating changes in GHG emissions and carbon storage at a local scale.  The methods in the report will be used to develop user-friendly tools for farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and other USDA stakeholders to help them evaluate the GHG benefits of a wide variety of management practices.

Forestry Sector

Forests in the United States are an important carbon sink. Carbon dioxide uptake by forests in the contiguous United States offsets about 12 to 19 percent of our total carbon dioxide emissions each year. Carbon sequestration is only one of many services provided by forests and grasslands; others include clean water, clean air, biodiversity, wood products, wildlife habitat, food, and recreation. Considering carbon in land management activities must be done in the context of the agency’s multiple-use mission.

Forest Carbon Estimation and Assessments

Accurate estimates of carbon in forests are crucial for forest carbon management, carbon credit trading, national reporting of greenhouse gas inventories, calculating estimates and indicators for sustainable forest management, and registering forest-related activities with greenhouse gas registries for States and regions. The Forest Inventory and Analysis program provides standard estimates by domains of interest, emerging research and associated highlights, documentation, important links, and general background regarding carbon estimation in the FIA program.

Climate Change Resource Center

The Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center provides resources, including topic overviews, tools, videos and short-courses, on carbon management in forests and grasslands. 

Considering Forest and Grassland Carbon in Land Management

Forest and grassland ecosystems in the United States play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, and land management activities influence their ability to absorb and sequester carbon. These ecosystems provide a critical regulating function, offsetting about 12 to 19 percent of the Nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Forests and grasslands are managed for many different objectives and a variety of goods and services, including clean water, clean air, biodiversity, wood products, wildlife habitat, food, recreation, and carbon sequestration. Although carbon may be of interest in developing management plans and options, it may not be a primary management objective. The amount of carbon absorbed by, and stored within, a particular ecosystem can be affected by many factors related to land management, including land-use change, management activities, disturbance, the use of harvested wood, and climate. The long-term capacity of forest ecosystems to absorb and sequester carbon depends in large part on their health, productivity, resilience, and ability to adapt to changing conditions. This report describes the role of forest and grassland ecosystems in the carbon cycle and provides information for considering carbon as one of many objectives for land management activities.