Wildlife Refuges Aiding in Efforts to Slow Climate Change

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you appreciate and value the National Wildlife Refuge System and all that it has to offer. We are well aware of the immense benefits to wildlife and habitat that these open spaces provide. What isn’t talked about as often are the benefits refuges have in the efforts to slow global climate change.

Habitat restoration on refuges reduce greenhouse gases through a process called biological carbon sequestration (BCS). Technically BCS is the natural assimilation and storage of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the form of vegetation, soils, woody product, and aquatic environments. Basically it means that natural areas absorb carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere thus reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air, and slowing the rise in earth’s temperature.

CoverBiological Carbon Sequestration Accomplishment Report

In the 36-page Biological Carbon Sequestration Accomplishments Report 2009-2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outlines specific examples throughout the Refuge System where restoration has resulted in increased carbon sequestration. The report highlights how the Service is working with public and private partners at or near refuges to maintain and restore habitat while also reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Through association with the Climate Action Reserve (CAR), the State of California has developed an operational cap-and-trade and compliance carbon offsets program that is starting to provide incentives for BCS projects nationwide. The Service has been working very closely with CAR to help them develop carbon offset project protocols for different types of ecosystems. The report outlines examples of management and research activities on refuges from 2009-2013 that demonstrate how Service-supported BCS activities are helping create and restore habitat while also mitigating greenhouse gases.

Partnership in Lower Mississippi

For example, in the Lower Mississippi River Valley, decades of agricultural clearing has reduced bottomland forest habitat to one fourth of its original size. The Service has been working with partners to acquire and reforest the land with efforts focusing on reforestation. One main partner is The Conservation Fund (TCF) which is vital to the effort through their Go Zero program. This program helps individuals and corporations offset carbon emissions by planting trees. TCF has partnered with the Service to use donations from the Go Zero program to acquire and reforest lands and then later donates or sells the lands to the Service.

Success in Lower Rio Grande Valley

Another example is in the Lower Rio Grande Valley where more than 95 percent of native vegetation has been lost to agricultural and urban development. The South Texas National Wildlife Refuge Complex has led the planting of more than 10,000 acres of Tamaulipan thornscrub with almost 4 million trees and shrubs planted since 1995. The refuge estimates that in 20 years, the project will have sequestered more than 923,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

National wildlife refuges prove time and time again how advantageous they are to the local communities, wildlife, habitat, and so much more. This is just one more example of why refuges are vital and immensely beneficial.

Read the full Refuge Update story here.


Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2014/12/wildlife-refuges-aiding-in-efforts-to-slow-climate-change/

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