The Marin Carbon Project

The Marin Carbon Project (MCP) achieves carbon sequestration in rangeland and agricultural soils through research and development of scalable, repeatable “carbon farming” techniques. CCI’s Agricultural Carbon Program supports the Marin Carbon Project through applied research, policy advocacy, and development of economic incentives for producers and land managers.

MCP recently demonstrated that the use of compost as a rangeland soil amendment can significantly increase rates of soil carbon sequestration, directly removing atmospheric carbon. MCP is now building on this work with additional, diverse demonstration sites and the development of a rigorous protocol that will enable land managers in California and beyond to sequester carbon and possibly participate in carbon trading markets.

Carbon Impact

Through five years of intensive research, MCP has demonstrated that the application of compost as a rangeland soil amendment can significantly increase rates of soil carbon sequestration, resulting in enhanced soil quality, soil water holding capacity and reduced atmospheric carbon. To date, MCP has both demonstrated and modeled total greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation rates over a 30-year time frame of more than 18 tons of CO2-equivalents per acre of land treated with organic amendments. If scaled to encompass 50% of California’s 23m hectares of rangeland, compost amendment alone could mitigate ALL of California’s commercial and residential GHG emissions (~42 MMT CO2-equivalents/year).

Opportunities and Barriers

MCP is working to scale carbon farming by seeding capacity and leadership within key agricultural institutions in California. Specific MCP goals in 2014-2015 include:

  • Develop Carbon Farm Toolkit for resource conservation districts (RCDs), land trusts, and land managers in other counties and watersheds in California to implement carbon farm programs;
  • Engage RCDs and land trusts across California to develop their carbon farming capacity and infrastructure;
  • Secure state and federal funding for carbon farming, including annual allocations from California’s Cap and Trade Revenue Plan, and USDA Farm Bill allocations to NRCS for conservation practices;
  • Evaluate the potential to sequester carbon in soil and vegetation in riparian systems within rangelands in Marin County;
  • In collaboration with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), develop and promote models demonstrating the impacts of soil carbon enhancement on soil water holding capacity, infiltration rate, hydraulic conductivity and water quality, as a strategy to advance carbon-beneficial land management’s contribution to increased agricultural resilience in the face of climate change.

About MCP

MCP is a consortium of the leading agricultural institutions and producers in Marin County, county and federal agencies, and nonprofits, including: Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), Marin Resource Conservation District (MRCD), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Carbon Cycle Institute (CCI).

Dr. Jeff Creque’s presentation “Climate Change Mitigation Potential of California’s Rangeland Ecosystems” from an April, 2014 webinar. For additional presentations from that webinar, visit Extension.