Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership

Land Cover, Land Use, and Land Management Practices

The amount of carbon that can be taken in and stored in a landscape is largely determined by the types of plants on a landscape (land cover). Land cover and land use define the ecosystem type. Ecosystem types include agricultural land, wetlands, grasslands, and forests. All of these ecosystems are found in the PCOR Partnership region.

The properties of ecosystems, especially their vegetation, can be used to estimate the amount of carbon that might be stored in the landscape and the extent to which the storage of carbon can be increased through ecosystem management. Management practices to increase carbon storage might include water and land management practices.

Plains CO2 Reduction
Partnership Region Land Cover
Click for larger image
For example, water management might incorporate changes such as the use of packed snow to increase soil moisture.1 Among the proven land management practices that have a high potential of enhancing carbon accumulation are the following: adopting conservation tillage practices, reducing soil erosion, and minimizing soil disturbance; using buffer strips along waterways; enrolling land in conservation programs, such as the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program; restoring wetlands; restoring degraded lands; converting marginal lands to wetlands or grasslands; eliminating summer fallow,2,3 a process where "vegetative growth is restricted by shallow cultivation or herbicides" ;4 using perennial grasses and winter cover crop; fostering afforestation and reforestation; and using light-to-moderate grazing to promote plant growth.5

  1. Dumanski, J., Desjardins, R.L., Tarnocai, C., Monreal, D., Gregorich, E.G., and Kirkwood, V., 1998, Possibilities for future carbon sequestration in Canadian agriculture in relation to land use changes: Climatic Change, v. 40, p. 81-103 (accessed September 2004).
  2. Lal, R., Kimble, J.M., Follett, R.F., and Cole, C.V., 1999, The potential of U.S. cropland to sequester carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect: Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, Florida.
  3. Paustian, K.H., and Cole. C.V., 1998, CO2 mitigation by agriculture - an overview: Climatic Change,
    v. 40, p. 135-162.
  4. Cihacek, L.J., and Ulmer, M.G., 2002, Effects of tillage on inorganic carbon storage in soils of the northern Great Plains of the United States; in J.M. Kimble, R. Lal, and R.F. Follett, eds., Agricultural practices and policies for carbon sequestration in soil, Boca Raton, Florida, Lewis Publishers, 2002,
    p. 63-69.
  5. N.D. Farmers Union and U.S. Geological Survey, 2003, Rangelands and the potential for emissions reductions in North Dakota: p. 1-6.