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Carbon Sequestration. Akilah Martin Fall 2005. Outline. Pre-Assessment Student learning goals Carbon Sequestration Background Century Model Overview What is Expected of Students Assignment/Scenario Example Simulation. Student Learning Goals.

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Carbon Sequestration

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Carbon Sequestration

Akilah Martin

Fall 2005


  • Pre-Assessment

  • Student learning goals

  • Carbon Sequestration Background

  • Century Model Overview

  • What is Expected of Students

  • Assignment/Scenario

  • Example Simulation

Student Learning Goals

Through this project students will be able to:

  • Understand the use of models in analyzing and predicting solutions to real-world, complex problems

    (2) Understand carbon sequestration processes

    (3) Correlate tillage practices, soil texture, weather, and cropping sequences with optimal carbon sequestration strategies

    (4) Enhance student’s decision-making skills

    (5) Be able to use the concepts, generate ideas and apply what was learned in their future environmental careers

Defining Carbon Sequestration

  • Process of transforming carbon in the air (carbon dioxide or CO2) into soil carbon

  • Long-term storage of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, underground, or the oceans so that the buildup of carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas) concentration in the atmosphere will be reduced

    • Removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere into sinks (i.e. soil) is one way of addressing climate change


Carbon Facts

  • In the past 60 years, the amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted to the atmosphere, primarily because of expanding use of fossil fuels for energy, has risen from pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million to present levels of over 365 parts per million

    • This increase has been implicated in a gradual increase in the Earth’s temperature

  • In 1998, the US released 5.4 tonnes of carbon per capita, European countries averaged around 1.9 tonnes and Africa emitted 0.3 tonnes.

    1 tonne = 1,000kg

Carbon Storage Facts

  • Soils store about 3X as much carbon as does terrestrial vegetation

  • 27% of this carbon is found in tundra and boreal forest ecosystems

  • The grassland region, which includes arid, transitional and sub-humid grassland, stores considerably less carbon than the more northern regions

Carbon Facts

  • Plants and trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere by the process photosynthesis. 

  • Carbon is returned to the atmosphere through respiration of plants, microbes, and animals and by natural and human-induced disturbances, such as fire. 

  • Carbon is also released to the atmosphere as Carbon Dioxide (CO2) upon combustion of fossil fuels.


Atmospheric Carbon

  • Atmospheric Carbon goes to:

    • Oceans, soil, and plants

  • Atmospheric Carbon comes from:

    • Burning fossil fuels, soil organic carbon decomposition, and deforestation

Global Warming

  • The Earth's surface temperature has risen by 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century, with accelerated warming during the past two decades.

  • Atmospheric greenhouse gases

    • water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases

    • Human activities

      • CO2 accounts for 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions


Global Warming

  • Industrial revolution

    • atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased nearly 30%

    • methane concentrations have more than doubled

    • nitrous oxide concentrations have risen by about 15%

  • Enhanced the heat-trapping capability of the earth's atmosphere

    • Sulfate aerosols cool the atmosphere by reflecting light back into space

      • Sulfates are short-lived in the atmosphere and vary regionally.

Greenhouse Effect

  • Emissions primarily of CO2 and methane

Processes of the “Greenhouse Effect”

Source of Carbon

Greenhouse Gases Facts

  • Water vapor, nitrous oxide, methane, carbon dioxide, and ozone

  • Methane traps over 21 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide

  • Nitrous oxide absorbs 270 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide

Impacts on Agriculture

Carbon Sources and Sinks

  • SourcesSinks

Industry (air pollution)

Human Activity (Farming)


Fossil Fuel Burning




Potential Carbon Sinks


Fossil Fuel Burning Emissions

Sources/Sinks of C-sequestration

Excessive carbon in the atmosphere has been a major contributor to global warming

Atmospheric Carbon


World Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Region2001-2025(Million Metric Tons of Carbon Equivalent)


  • Colorado State University Research Group

  • Model used to analyze carbon sequestration optimization

  • Web enabled

  • Linked to Purdue ITaP supercomputing facility

  • Century Website


About the Model….

  • Understanding of the biogeochemistry of Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Sulfur

  • Provide a tool for ecosystem analysis

    • to test the consistency of data (i.e. soil carbon) and to evaluate the effects of changes in management and climate on ecosystems


  • Long-term and spatial dynamics of Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Sulfur (S) for different Plant-Soil Systems through an annual cycle to centuries and millennia

  • Features

    • grassland systems

    • agricultural crop systems

    • forest systems

    • savanna systems

Scaling of Site Properties

  • We are defining the term “scale” in this project as the many combinations of climate, texture, tillage and crops

  • From location to location, site properties change

  • Those site properties include

    • Tillage

    • Soil texture

    • Climate

    • Crop



After completion of assignment students are expected to:

  • Understand the concepts of carbon sequestration

  • Make decisions on carbon sequestration using the tools provided

  • State a hypothesis, test the hypothesis using the model and make decisions based on results

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