Soil Scientist /Audit Team Member 

Position Description: 
Aster Global has an immediate need for a Soil Scientist / Audit Team Member.   

The Soil Scientist for this position requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of soil morphology, soil sampling, interpreting soil analyses, and modeling in project conditions from farmland to international wildland environments. Auditing practices in ecosystem services markets, soil health/production programs, and similar are preferred.  Maintain professional, certified/licensed soil scientist designations.  Demonstrate strong organizational, management, and communication skills for projects, including clients, third parties, management staff, and team members. 

The ideal candidate will have an interest in the developing agricultural land management carbon offset project and conservation markets, including validation/verification (3rd-party audit) of agricultural, forestry, and other land use projects.  Being self-motivated and able to be productive in all types of work environments are keys to success in this position.   

In this position you will travel 40 percent of your time and may have an opportunity to experience some of the most remote ecosystems in the world.  

The work location is flexible (remote) with responsibilities world-wide.  

Your Contributions to our Success will include:  

Position Requirements:  

If you have the following it is a plus: 

Essential Job Duties: 

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: 

Education, Experience, Certifications, Registrations or Licensure: 

or 

 

Physical Requirements of the Job: 

Job Location: Flexible with responsibilities world-wide.
Start Date:  January 2023 (start time can be flexible)  

 

Salary/Benefits: 

Aster Global offers a comprehensive benefit package consisting of: Medical, Vision, Dental, Life Insurance, Short & Long -Term Disability Insurance, Retirement Plan, Employee Assistance Program, 12-Paid Holidays per year, Paid Vacation, Personal Time off Pay, and Bereavement Pay. Compensation will be commensurate with experience and market sector.  

 

Employment Contingencies: 

 

Interested candidates should send their resume, writing sample, three references, and anticipated starting salary via email to Natalie Hammer (nhammer@asterglobal.com) by 15 November 2022  

Aster Global is an Equal Opportunity Employer. 

About Aster Global Environmental Solutions 

Aster Global Environmental Solutions, Inc. (Aster Global), is a world-wide leader in the provision of ecosystem-based climate change and GHG emissions reductions/removal auditing services. With over 15+ year of experience in the GHG emissions/removals and climate change market and 20+ year of experience in environmental consulting, the Aster Global team is a dynamic, diverse, and rapidly growing group of professionals who are known for their expertise, integrity, and customer service.   

Aster Global is accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) under ISO 14065:2013 for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies including: ISO 14064-3:2006, ISO 14065:2013, validation/verification of assertions related to GHG emission reductions and removals at the project level for Land Use and Forestry (Group 3), verification of assertions related to GHG emissions and removals at the organizational level (Group 1 – General, Group 2 – Manufacturing, Group 3 – Power Generation, Group 5 – Mining and Mineral Production, Group 6 – Metals Production, Group 7 chemical Production, Group 8 – Oil and Gas Extraction, production, and Refining including Petrochemicals, and Group 9 – Waste), and verification of assertions related to GHG emissions for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Aster Global is also accredited by the California Air Resources Board.  

 

 Note: This job description is intended to be a general summary of the primary duties and responsibilities of this position. It does not prescribe or restrict the tasks that may be assigned. Assigned tasks are subject to change at any time due to company discretion, job requirements, reasonable accommodation, or other reasons. 

Aster Global Environmental Solutions, Inc. is an EEO/ADA employer 

 

Position Description:
Aster Global has an immediate need for a Project Forester / Audit Team Member.

Our ideal candidate will have an interest in the developing forest carbon offset project/conservation markets, including validation/verification (3rd-party audit) of agricultural, forestry, and other land use projects. Being self-motivated and able to be productive in all types of work environments are keys to success in this position.

A strong background in forest management, forest inventory design and implementation, statistics, and growth-and-yield modeling is required.

In this position you will travel 40-60% of your time and have an opportunity to experience some of the most remote ecosystems in the world.

The work location is flexible (100% remote) with responsibilities world-wide.

Your Contributions to our Success will include:

Position Requirements:

If you have the following it’s a plus:

Desired Proficiencies:

Education:

Travel:

Physical Requirements of the Job:

Job Location: Flexible with responsibilities world-wide.

Start Date: ASAP

Salary/Benefits:
Aster Global offers a comprehensive benefit package consisting of: Medical, Vision, Dental, Life Insurance, Short & Long -Term Disability Insurance, Retirement Plan, Employee Assistance Program, 12-Paid Holidays per yea, Paid Vacation, Personal Time off Pay, and Bereavement Pay. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.

Employment Contingencies:

How to Apply:
Interested candidates should send their resume, writing sample, three references, and anticipated starting salary via email to Natalie Hammer nhammer@asterglobal.com. Please include the title of the position for which you are applying.

Aster Global is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

About Aster Global Environmental Solutions
Aster Global Environmental Solutions, Inc. (Aster Global), is a world-wide leader in the provision of Forestry Carbon and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Services. With over 16 year of experience in the GHG emissions/removals and climate change market and 20+ year of experience in forestry and environmental consulting, the Aster Global team is a dynamic, diverse, and rapidly growing group of professionals who are known for their expertise, integrity, and customer service.

Aster Global recently purchased the Forestry Carbon and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Services division from Environmental Services, Inc.
Aster Global is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) under ISO 14065:2007 for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies including: ISO 14064-3:2013, ISO 14065:2007, validation/verification of assertions related to GHG emission reductions and removals at the project level for Land Use and Forestry (Group 3), verification of assertions related to GHG emissions and removals at the organizational level, and verifications of assertions related to GHG emissions for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation. Aster Global is also an approved third-party validator and/or verifier for the Verified Carbon Standard; Climate Action Reserve; American Carbon Registry; Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance; California Air Resources Board; British Columbia Carbon Registry; The Climate Registry; CDP; and the British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan Reporting Regulation

Position Description:
Aster Global has an immediate need for a forest biometrician with interest and experience in the developing market for carbon offset projects /credits, including validation/verification (3rd-party audit) of forest carbon offset projects. Strong background in forest biometrics, statistics and growth-and-yield modeling is required. Candidate needs to be a self-motivator with the ability to be productive in all types of work environments. The work location is flexible with responsibilities world-wide.

Your Contributions to our Success will include:

Position Requirements:

If you have the following it’s a plus:

Desired Proficiencies:

Education:

Travel:

Physical Requirements of the Job:

Job Location: Remote position - Flexible with responsibilities and travel opportunities world-wide.

Start Date: ASAP

Salary/Benefits:
Aster Global offers a comprehensive benefits package consisting of Medical, Vision, Dental, Life Insurance, Short & Long -Term Disability Insurance, Retirement Plan, Employee Assistance Program, 12-Paid Holidays per yea, Paid Vacation, Personal Time off Pay, and Bereavement Pay. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.

Employment Contingencies:

How to Apply:

Interested candidates should send their resume, writing sample, three references, and anticipated starting salary via email to Natalie Hammer nhammer@asterglobal.com. Please include the title of the position for which you are applying.

Aster Global is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

About Aster Global Environmental Solutions
Aster Global Environmental Solutions, Inc. (Aster Global), is a world-wide leader in the provision of Forestry Carbon and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Services. With over 16 years of experience in the GHG emissions/removals and climate change market and 20+ year of experience in forestry and environmental consulting, the Aster Global team is a dynamic, diverse, and rapidly growing group of professionals who are known for their expertise, integrity, and customer service.

Aster Global recently purchased the Forestry Carbon and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Services division from Environmental Services, Inc.
Aster Global is accredited by the ANSI National Standards Institute (ANAB) under ISO 14065:2007 for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies including: ISO 14064-3:2013, ISO 14065:2007, validation/verification of assertions related to GHG emission reductions and removals at the project level for Land Use and Forestry (Group 3), verification of assertions related to GHG emissions and removals at the organizational level, and verifications of assertions related to GHG emissions for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation. Aster Global is also an approved third-party validator and/or verifier for the Verified Carbon Standard; Climate Action Reserve; American Carbon Registry; Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance; California Air Resources Board; British Columbia Carbon Registry; The Climate Registry; CDP; and the British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan Reporting Regulation.

Position Description:

Aster Global has an immediate need for an Agriculture Specialist / Audit Team Member.

Our ideal candidate will have an interest in the developing agricultural land management (ALM) carbon offset project and conservation markets, including validation/verification (3rd-party audit) of agricultural, forestry, and other land use projects (AFOLU) and social standards like sustainable development goals.  Being self-motivated and able to be productive in all types of work environments are keys to success in this position.

A strong background in agricultural practices and auditing principals are required. Familiarity with statistics, farm and/or ranch operations, agronomy, assorted cultivation techniques, and an understanding basic fertilizer calculations is preferred.

In this position you will travel 40-60% of your time and may have an opportunity to experience some of the most remote ecosystems in the world.

The work location is flexible (remote/home office) with responsibilities world-wide.

 

Your Contributions to our Success will include:

 

Position Requirements:

 

Desired Proficiencies:

 

If you have the following it is a plus:

Education:

Travel:

 

Physical Requirements of the Job:

Job Location: Flexible with responsibilities world-wide.
Start Date:  August 2021

Salary/Benefits:

Aster Global offers a comprehensive benefit package consisting of: Medical, Vision, Dental, Life Insurance, Short & Long -Term Disability Insurance, Retirement Plan, Employee Assistance Program, 12-Paid Holidays per year, Paid Vacation, Personal Time off Pay, and Bereavement Pay. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.

Employment Contingencies:

Interested candidates should send their resume, writing sample, three references, and anticipated starting salary via email to Natalie Hammer (nhammer@asterglobal.com)

Aster Global is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

 

 

About Aster Global Environmental Solutions

Aster Global Environmental Solutions, Inc. (Aster Global), is a world-wide leader in the provision of ecosystem-based climate change and GHG emissions reductions/removal auditing services. With over 15+ year of experience in the GHG emissions/removals and climate change market and 20+ year of experience in environmental consulting, the Aster Global team is a dynamic, diverse, and rapidly growing group of professionals who are known for their expertise, integrity, and customer service.

 

Aster Global is accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) under ISO 14065:2013 for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies including: ISO 14064-3:2006, ISO 14065:2013, validation/verification of assertions related to GHG emission reductions and removals at the project level for Land Use and Forestry (Group 3), verification of assertions related to GHG emissions and removals at the organizational level (Group 1 – General, Group 2 – Manufacturing, Group 3 – Power Generation, Group 5 – Mining and Mineral Production, Group 6 – Metals Production, Group 7 chemical Production, Group 8 – Oil and Gas Extraction, production, and Refining including Petrochemicals, and Group 9 – Waste), and verification of assertions related to GHG emissions for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Aster Global is also accredited by the California Air Resources Board.

 

Principled  Resourceful   Collaborative  Adaptive  Culturally Aware  Industry Leading

Position Description:

Aster Global has an immediate need for a forest biometrician with interest and experience in the developing market for carbon offset projects /credits, including validation/verification (3rd-party audit) of forest carbon offset projects.  Strong background in forest biometrics, statistics and growth-and-yield modeling is required. Candidate needs to be a self-motivator with the ability to be productive in all types of work environments. The work location is flexible with responsibilities world-wide.

Your contributions to our success will include:

Position Requirements:

Desired Proficiencies:

If you have the following it is a plus:

Education:

Travel:

Physical Requirements of the Job

Job Location: Remote position - Flexible with responsibilities and travel opportunities world-wide.

Start Date:  July 2021

Salary/Benefits: Aster Global offers a comprehensive benefit package consisting of: Medical, Vision, Dental, Life Insurance, Short & Long -Term Disability Insurance, Retirement Plan, 12-Paid Holidays per year, Paid Vacation, Personal Time off Pay, and Bereavement Pay. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.    

Employment Contingencies:

Interested candidates should send their resume, writing sample, three references, and anticipated starting salary via email to Natalie Hammer nhammer@asterglobal.com by 9 July 2021.

 

Aster Global is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Aster Global Environmental Solutions, Inc. (Aster Global), is a world-wide leader in the provision of Forestry Carbon and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Services. With over 15 year of experience in the GHG emissions/removals and climate change market and 20+ year of experience in forestry and environmental consulting, the Aster Global team is a dynamic, diverse, and rapidly growing group of professionals who are known for their expertise, integrity, and customer service.

Aster Global is accredited by the ANSI National Standards Institute (ANAB) under ISO 14065:2007 for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies including: ISO 14064-3:2013, ISO 14065:2007, validation/verification of assertions related to GHG emission reductions and removals at the project level for Land Use and Forestry (Group 3), verification of assertions related to GHG emissions and removals at the organizational level, and verifications of assertions related to GHG emissions for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.  Aster Global is also an approved third-party validator and/or verifier for the Verified Carbon Standard; Climate Action Reserve; American Carbon Registry; Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance; California Air Resources Board; British Columbia Carbon Registry; The Climate Registry; CDP; and the British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan Reporting Regulation.

Aster Global has an immediate need for a forester/auditor/GIS remote sensing specialist.

The ideal candidate will have an interest in the developing market of climate change, agricultural, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) offset (carbon sequestration) projects, including validation/verification (3rd-party audits) of offset projects.

The role of Forest Auditor/GIS Remote Sensing Specialist requires general knowledge and understanding of auditing practices under multiple platforms, offset carbon markets, timber inventory design and analysis, growth and yield modeling, timber management planning and similar.  They maintain professional, certified/licensed forester designations as well as required certifications/training in the voluntary and compliance carbon offset market.  They demonstrate strong organizational, management and communication skills for projects, including clients, third-parties, management staff and team members.  Strong background in forestry, inventory design and implementation, statistics, and natural resource GIS and remote sense applications, GIS experience using geospatial tools including ArcGIS 10.X suite to critically evaluate geospatial data as part of project level audits required. May be called upon for advanced geospatial analytics in the QA/QC process for audits and create original work to assist in project development tasks.

Candidate needs to be a self-motivator with the ability to be productive in all types of work environments. The work location is flexible with responsibilities world-wide.

Your contributions to our success will include:

Position Requirements:

If you have the following it is a plus:

Desired Proficiencies:

Education:

Travel:

Physical Requirements of the Job:

Job Location: Remote position - Flexible with responsibilities and travel opportunities world-wide.

Preferred Start Date: July 20201

Salary/Benefits: Aster Global offers a comprehensive benefit package consisting of: Medical, Vision, Dental, Life Insurance, Short & Long -Term Disability Insurance, Retirement Plan, 12-Paid Holidays per year, Paid Vacation, Personal Time off Pay, and Bereavement Pay. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.

Employment Contingencies:

How to Apply:
Interested candidates should send their resume, writing sample, three references, and anticipated starting salary via email to Natalie Hammer nhammer@asterglobal.com by 9 July 2021.

 

Aster Global is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Aster Global Environmental Solutions, Inc. (Aster Global), is a world-wide leader in the provision of Forestry Carbon and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Services. With over 15 year of experience in the GHG emissions/removals and climate change market and 20+ year of experience in forestry and environmental consulting, the Aster Global team is a dynamic, diverse, and rapidly growing group of professionals who are known for their expertise, integrity, and customer service.

Aster Global is accredited by the ANSI National Standards Institute (ANAB) under ISO 14065:2007 for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies including: ISO 14064-3:2013, ISO 14065:2007, validation/verification of assertions related to GHG emission reductions and removals at the project level for Land Use and Forestry (Group 3), verification of assertions related to GHG emissions and removals at the organizational level, and verifications of assertions related to GHG emissions for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.  Aster Global is also an approved third-party validator and/or verifier for the Verified Carbon Standard; Climate Action Reserve; American Carbon Registry; Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance; California Air Resources Board; British Columbia Carbon Registry; The Climate Registry; CDP; and the British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan Reporting Regulation.

By Shawn McMahon

As businesses grapple with the many questions related to environmental legislation, cap and trade systems, and the associated investments, their leaders are searching for the revenue streams that offset those investments. One of the fundamental and most often asked questions then is where does the cash come from in carbon sequestration projects?

The short answer is, there are several different sources of revenue related to CO2 mitigation and carbon sequestration such as direct CO2 sales, tax incentives, carbon credits, and derivative products. In this article we will look specifically at the revenue generated through forest management.

The most common source of money from biological/ecological sequestration is the revenue generated from the sale of carbon credits created through afforestation and managed forest projects. When planting new forests (afforestation) and actively managing those projects using best-practice sustainable management plans, a stand of new forest has the potential to generate revenue for each acre planted according to the table below.1 To generate revenue, carbon being marketed must be “above and beyond” carbon that would have otherwise been stored through actions/management that you are currently conducting. This principle of “additionality” is a critical component of any quality project, since buyers of carbon credits aren’t typically willing to pay for sequestration that would have occurred anyway.

Location Stand Type Age Metric Tons CO2 per acre per year Gross Revenue Per Acre at $2 / Metric Ton
1 1 1 1 1

ESI Carbon

Based on a Southeastern Loblolly-Shortleaf Pine example processed under the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), carbon credits on a 5000 acre afforestation project could annually generate $23,670 per year in the first five years, $24,720 per year in years 6 through 10, and $23,030 per year in years 11 through 15. This yields a total of $357,100 in gross revenue from carbon credits over the life of the project.

In this context, it is important to include the potential revenue generated by the harvest of the timber, which could be completed after the 15 year contract is met. For this example we will assume a lifetime average growth rate of 5 tons per acre per year, a 3rd row thinning (1/3 of the volume) at age 18, and the final harvest at age 25. At $7 per ton, the thinning in year 18 would produce approximately $945,000. The final harvest in year 25 would include pulp ($8 per ton) and chip-n-saw ($15 per ton) components, which would yield approximately $5,978,000, for a total overall gross revenue from wood products of $6,923,000.

Now, let’s look at the estimated costs related to generating this revenue to arrive at net revenue for this 5000 acre example on a 25 year project.

The direct costs typically associated with afforestation include site preparation, seedling purchase and planting. For this example we are assuming loblolly pine seedlings at 700 trees per acre. The estimated per acre cost for seedlings, site prep, and planting is $300, resulting in a total upfront cost for 5,000 acres $1,500,000. Additional costs for active management will not be included here as most afforestation protocols limit the active management that can be conducted. Some implicit costs not considered here which may affect project profitability include the purchase of the land, property taxes, insurance, etc.

Additional costs include project development, certification/registration, aggregation fees, and the initial and annual 3rd party verifications. The project development costs would reasonably be in the $15,000 range, excluding verification costs. The initial verification could be anticipated at $6,000, the annual verifications at $2,500 per year, with total verification costs for the 15 year period at $43,500. Aggregation costs, the cost paid for listing carbon credits on the CCX
through an approved aggregator, can be estimated at 15% of gross revenue. To list credits directly on the exchange you must first become an aggregator or purchase a seat on the exchange, which is typically cost prohibitive for a single project. All costs, for the 15 year period can be estimated at $1,558,500.

The table below summarizes the costs and revenues for the project:

ESI Carbon

As the information above illustrates, there can be profit margins in the neighborhood of 27% for joint afforestation projects when carbon and timber revenues are considered. Though revenues from carbon on afforestation projects comprise only a portion of the revenues derived from wood products, they can provide vital assistance in offsetting property taxes and other costs associated with forest lands, often with very little modification from current forest management practices. Obviously the gross revenue, costs, feasibility, and profitability need to be evaluated for every specific project and these items will be substantially different based on the timber stand, location, age, protocol, management plan, and many other variables. Regardless of the variables, there is a point (typically total acreage) where these projects become profitable. This is where most of the “cash in carbon” is generated.

Along with the revenue and profit associated with a solid afforestation project, there are other valuable considerations project owners should consider. These considerations include:

Some additional items of note for afforestation projects submitted through CCX:

As you and your company explore biological carbon sequestration projects it is important to look at the potential profitability of each specific project. Most every company strives to be good stewards of the land and remain environmentally conscious. The financial and other valuable considerations that accompany these projects make it easier to plan for and implement carbon sequestration projects. In many cases afforestation projects can generate significant profits in addition to the value of the crop, in this case the timber. These sequestration project profits often can make the difference between a break-even operation and profitability.

Please note: The information presented in this article is based on current market prices for carbon credits at the Chicago Climate Exchange as of March 2009. Prices are subject to change based on market conditions. There are other public and private markets that may yield higher gross revenues for the same example acreages. The projected expenses used in the examples within the article are based on industry averages and several different projects in the aggregate. The costs associated with each specific project can only be quoted at the time contracts are  presented for a specific project. Please contact Environmental Services Inc., for estimates based on your specific project criteria.

About the author:
Shawn McMahon is a senior manager with Environmental Services Inc., where he specializes in carbon sequestration project development, development/implementation of management plans for enhancement of forest carbon stocks, and development of carbon and environmental asset tracking programs. With ESI he is approved as a third party verifier for forestry carbon offset projects for the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Voluntary Carbon Standard. Mr. McMahon holds a degree in natural resource management from the University Of Florida School Of Forest Resources. He is an ISA certified arborist, holds numerous certifications in wetland and hydrologic studies, and regularly gives presentations and workshops on carbon sequestration projects and markets.

By Richard Scharf

Aster Global completed a baseline soil carbon study for a farm manager curious about a relatively unknown management practice that was developed in Australia. Peter Traverse’s interest was to investigate the use of a tillage practice called keylining and evaluate its effect on increasing soil organic carbon stocks on the land he manages in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. While the practice has production benefits through water management, there is reason to believe that this technique will also result in greater soil carbon sequestration.

Years ago, when Peter farmed with his father in Vermont, one of their key concerns was keeping more of the water that fell as precipitation on the rolling hills of their land, rather than losing it to runoff.  Peter continued his research through the years and eventually ran into the practice of keylining.

The keyline concept was developed by P. A. Yeomans, who published a book about the practice in 1954. The original text of P. A. Yeoman’s book is available on the internet. (P.A. Yeoman) Mr. Yeomans was a rancher in Australia – a country where putting every drop of rainfall to productive use is one of the goals of successful farmers and ranchers.  The practice involves cultivation that is generally along the contours of the land, but not quite.  Without going deeply into the technical aspects of keylining, the plowing of the land detours slightly from contour in order to direct water away from points of concentration (natural drainages) along the slope and spread it out to the entire slope.

The keyline method involves using a specialized, narrow-bladed plow with a long shank that creates deep, continuous channels along these near-contour pathways.  The plow blades are positioned two feet apart and do not cultivate and mix the surface of the soil to much of an extent, aside from leaving a narrow channel through it.  The primary idea is to catch surface runoff and near-surface flow, and direct it both across the field and more deeply into the soil. These deep, narrow channels are eventually driven to depths of about two feet.

P. A. Yeoman’s goal was to make use of as much precipitation as possible in order to improve the soil and therefore the productivity of the land.  He points out that the keyline method was primarily developed to improve soil structure and fertility to greater depths, and it does this by encouraging a deeper root zone and its associated microbial communities. Roots grow toward moisture and like most living things, take the path of least resistance. The creation of these deep channels increases the water content of the subsoil as well as decreasing the soil’s resistance to root penetration. Increasing soil quality and fertility would always be considered a noble goal in agriculture, but in these times when there is great interest in countering the buildup of atmospheric greenhouse gases, there may be another important aspect to consider: the enhanced sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the soil.

Peter Traverse first got a chance to see a demonstration of the keyline method in Vermont in 2006, when he visited the farm of keyline advocate, Abe Collins.  The demonstration included a view of a soil profile.  What impressed Peter more than anything was that the A horizon of the soil (the productive topsoil) and root zone of the grasses were much deeper than would typically be found in the soils of Vermont, and were more similar in appearance to the fertile soils of the tallgrass prairies.  The soils were dark with organic matter to a depth of about 18 inches.  The soil even smelled differently than the typically managed soils in the state.  Peter was determined to look into this apparent increase in soil organic matter, and first sought information from academic sources.

What Peter found was that there has been little study of the practice of keylining, and certainly no study of its apparent ability to increase organic carbon content.  Some soil scientists were highly skeptical of the notion that soil organic carbon could be built up at the rates claimed by proponents of keylining.  However, unlike many of us who are outside the halls of academia, instead of being discouraged, Peter decided to commence a study himself.  His goals are to develop empirical evidence about whether keylining accelerates the buildup of soil organic carbon.  If he finds that keylining is effective, he hopes to entice formal academic inquiry of this management practice.

From a scientific aspect, it does make sense that increasing the water supply to dry soils will increase plant growth, creating large, continuous soil macropores which increase aeration and deeper root development.  The apparent speed at which these changes occur, based on a visual inspection of the soil profile, may mean there is some redistribution of soil organic matter from the shallow horizons to the deeper ones, because of the newly created macropores.  However, since this has never been documented, what is actually happening is unknown.

Before implementing the keyline method, two pastures on the Innisfree Farm, where Peter Traverse is the manager, were intensively sampled to depths of 24 inches to quantify the amount of soil organic carbon these soils hold.  Keylining has since been commenced, and the current plan is to resample the same sites in about five years, to measure the overall quantity, as well as the vertical distribution of soil organic carbon.

Trying new ideas in agriculture and spreading the word about the ones that work to other farmers is a noble path, but the possibility that this practice can also increase soil carbon sequestration may benefit far more than the agricultural community. We salute these efforts and the dedication behind them.

By Richard Scharf

Over the last few years, the number of Agricultural Land Management (ALM) methodologies available to project developers has been increasing. The American Carbon Registry (ACR), Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) have all added to agricultural project opportunities, including methodologies for reducing nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizers, reducing methane emissions from rice cultivation, introduction of sustainable ag. land management, grassland management and a modular soil carbon quantification methodology.

N2O Emissions Reductions on Agricultural Crops

Perhaps the most notable recent additions to ALM methodologies include the streamlined N2O emission reduction methodologies approved by the American Carbon Registry, Climate Action Reserve and the Verified Carbon Standard, based on a recently published study (Hoben, et al., 2011). Since the methodology authors of the ACR and VCS methodologies are the same, and the same work influenced the CAR protocol, the three share these similarities:

1. Simply reducing nitrogen fertilizer applications below business as usual rates for agricultural crops creates N2O emissions reductions without risk of reversibility.
2. In the North Central Region (or NCR, which is essentially the corn belt) of the United States, where significant research on N2O emissions from agricultural soils used to grow corn has been published, a more precise emissions factor for corn crops is used than the IPCC default factor used for other areas. This means NCR projects are credited for greater emissions reductions than similar projects outside the region.

The main differences between the methodologies can best be summarized in a table.

 

Important Differences Between N2O Emissions Reduction Methodologies.

The basic premise of these methodologies is that a percentage of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops is transformed to the GHG N2O. A simple mathematical model determines the amount of N2O emitted based on the application rate. The IPCC emissions factor of 1% is used in the ACR and VCS method on non-corn crops and corn crops grown outside the NCR, resulting in a conservative, linear model. Within the NCR on corn crops, all three methodologies use a peer-reviewed, non-linear model that results in greater emissions reductions over the IPCC default factor.

These N2O emissions reductions are irreversible, because the fertilizer applied for a harvested crop cannot be increased once the growing season is over. The reason leakage is either assumed to be zero or is likely going to be calculated at near zero is based on the value of the farmerís crop relative to the value of any offset credits generated through emission reductions.

The potential for N2O emissions reduction projects is considerable. In the United States, farmers have traditionally over-applied nitrogen fertilizers to corn crops, due to yield goal methods for determining application rates and an aversion by farmers to change a tried and true method for achieving the crop yields they expect to produce. For most corn field in the US, more likely than not, the N fertilizer application rate can be reduced below current levels while maintaining crop yield.

Those who have developed other offset projects should find the relative simplicity of the new N2O emissions reductions methodologies refreshing. Farms with the most detailed fertilizer records will be easiest to document and verify.

The previously developed ACR methodology that is available for emissions reductions by reducing N fertilizer applications depends on the DNDC model. This obviously requires a project developer to have someone adept with this model on the team. However, since the DNDC model is now used by ACRís new rice management methodology and CARís rice project protocol, more people are becoming familiar with the model.

VCS's Soil Carbon Quantification Methodology

In late 2012, VCS approved a multi-module methodology for the quantification of soil carbon and related carbon pools in ALM projects through direct measurement. With considerable experience in the direct measurement of soil carbon in AFOLU projects, ESI personnel recognize this methodology as an important source of guidance for projects and other methodologies where direct measurements of this carbon pool are necessary ñ whether for full quantification of baseline and project stocks, or to calibrate a model for the same purpose.

The methodology is applicable to ecosystem restoration projects, changes in agricultural practices, erosion reduction techniques and other project activities that are expected to affect the soil carbon pool, litter, plant biomass and other sources or sinks related to agricultural operations. The modular approach allows project developers to adapt the methodology for the type of land management being used. For example, litter and woody biomass pools may be important to projects involving grazing lands or agroforestry while inconsequential in row crop agriculture. Each is addressed in a separate module which can be used or ignored as deemed appropriate by the project developer.

Direct measurement of soil carbon stocks can be labor intensive and a number of informed decisions will have to be made by the project development team that will have a strong influence on the cost and accuracy of baseline and project monitoring measurements. It would be advisable to commence a project involving the direct measurement of soil carbon with input from a soil scientist skilled in soil mapping and the collection of soil samples, and who can properly train and supervise field crews.

Soil carbon is extremely variable across a landscape ñ especially landscapes where the soil is plowed or otherwise disturbed by earth moving equipment. A soil scientist who understands the way soil carbon content varies across the landscape will be able to stratify the project area to reduce variation. Other important parameters, including the depth samples are taken and the methods for taking them should be determined with the input of a soil scientist.

The logistics of gathering the samples necessary will have a strong influence on the profitability of a project. Since the methodology recommends that samples should be taken to the depth of 1 meter or more (unless professional opinion dictates a more appropriate depth) soils where hydraulic soil probes can easily be used will translate to lower cost sampling over soils where hydraulic probes are less successful. In the US, the Natural Resource Conservation Service or faculty at the stateís Land Grant University will be able to tell you how useful such equipment will be. Generally speaking, rocky soils will present difficulties for taking samples compared to finer textured soils.

Rice Cultivation Methodologies

ACR approved its Voluntary Emission Reductions in Rice Management Systems methodology in May of 2013. CAR approved its first Rice Cultivation Project Protocol in December of 2011, with an update in June 2013.

The methodologies use similar project activities and both depend on the DNDC model to calculate CH4 emissions from soil in the baseline and project scenarios. CH4 is the primary GHG considered in these methodologies, though the ACR methodology also credits increased energy and water use efficiency in the Mid- South growing region.

The methodologies are based on the fact that anaerobic soil organisms emit significant quantities of methane when soils are saturated with water, excluding oxygen from soil pores. Common rice cultivation techniques include the flooding of soils for long periods during the growing season to keep down competition from weed species. Reducing the amount of time during the growing season when the soils are saturated reduces the amount of CH4 emissions.

In addition to reducing the length of time the rice field soils are saturated, bailing and removing rice straw after harvest and removing rice straw after harvest removes the food for CH4 -emitting soil microorganisms, reducing emissions.

Currently, ACR's methodology can be used in the California rice growing regions and the mid-south region, which consists of the Mississippi Delta region (including Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri) and the Louisiana Gulf Coast region. CARís protocol can only be used in the California rice growing region, at present.

For project developers and verifiers alike, a crop advisor familiar with regional rice cultivation practices is a vital part of the team. Much depends on proving when soils were saturated and unsaturated, so devising strategies to do this effectively may depend on such expertise.

Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands to Crop Production

ACRís Methodology for Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands to Crop Production was released in October of 2013, and is applicable to grassland and shrubland in the U.S. and Canada that are going to be converted to annual crop production.

Most of the carbon associated with grasslands and shrublands is in the soil, the primary carbon pool of concern for this methodology. Inclusion of above and below ground biomass is optional. The concept is that when soil is disturbed for annual crop use, SOC will oxidize and release CO2 until the soil reaches a new steady state with the new land management system.

Restrictions on land use are not as severe as in the USDAís Conservation Reserve Program. Land can still be used for grazing and hay production under the applicability conditions, though additional accounting for livestock emissions and equipment emissions from hay production activities would then be required.

Changes in carbon stocks that would have occurred in the baseline scenario are determined through the use of either process models (like DNDC, DAYCENT and APEX) or empirical models from peer reviewed literature, applicable to the project area. The initial carbon stocks are estimated through direct measurement or through regional soil carbon inventories.

For direct measurement of SOC, the methodology refers to ACRís Tool for the Estimation of Carbon Stocks in Carbon Pools and Emissions from Emissions Sources. This measurement should be conducted or overseen by a soil scientist skilled in stratifying for SOC and in collecting bulk density samples in the field. Another important parameter that should be determined with the input of a soil scientist is the depth to which samples will be taken. This depends on the depths at which SOC concentrations are expected to change in the baseline scenario.

Keep in mind this methodology is for lands that would be converted in the absence of the project. Developers must show the land's highest use is annual crop production and that the land is valued at least 40% greater when use as cropland over grassland/shrubland.

Sustainable Grasslands Management

The most recently released ALM methodology is Sustainable Grassland Management, which was approved by VCS and released in April of 2014. The methodology was developed based on degraded grazing land research in China, but may be applicable to degraded grasslands expected to remain the same or continue to degrade in the absence of the project. Evapotranspiration must be greater than precipitation. See the methodology (VM0026) for the full list of applicability conditions.

Project activities include sustainable practices, like improved rotation of grazers, limiting the number of grazing animals on degraded pastures, restoration of grasslands by replanting with perennial grasses and instituting proper management over the long term.

The two primary carbon pools likely affected by project activities are SOC, likely to increase, and aboveground woody biomass, which may decrease. Some management practices, if included, will also require monitoring of other emissions sources, including N2O emissions from fertilizers and emissions from biomass burning.

Increases in SOC are estimated either through the use of peer-reviewed models validated for the region where the project area is located. Another option is to use a direct measurement approach, which must be an established method or approved standard.

As with all projects where SOC is an important carbon pool, projects developed under this methodology would benefit with the guidance of an experienced soil scientist for stratification and soil sample collection and handling procedures.

The full methodologies are available for download from the carbon registriesí websites:

ACR: Carbon Accounting ó American Carbon Registry for the Methodology For Quantifying N2O Emission Reductions from Reduced Use of N Fertilizer on Agricultural Crops, Voluntary Emission Reductions in Rice Management Systems and the Methodology for Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands to Crop Production.

CAR: http://www.climateactionreserve.org/how/protocols/ for the Nitrogen Management Project Protocol and the Rice Cultivation Project Protocol.

VCS: http://www.v-c-s.org/methodologies/find for Quantifying N2O Emissions Reductions in Agricultural Crops through N Fertilizer Rate Reduction, Soil Carbon Quantification Methodology and the Sustainable Grasslands Management Methodology.

For additional information on Agricultural Land Management methodologies, please contact Environmental Services by subscribing to our sustainable website or emailing Richard Scharf at: rscharf@AsterGlobal.com

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