Terrestrial carbon sequestration has a potential role in reducing the recent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) that is, in part, contributing to global warming. Because the most stable long-term surface reservoir for carbon is the soil, changes in agriculture and forestry can potentially reduce atmospheric CO2 through increased soil-carbon storage. If local governments and regional planning agencies are to effect changes in land-use management that could mitigate the impacts of increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is essential to know how carbon is cycled and distributed on the landscape. Only then can a cost/benefit analysis be applied to carbon sequestration as a potential land-use management tool for mitigation of GHG emissions.
For the past several years, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been researching the role of terrestrial carbon in the global carbon cycle. Data from these investigations now allow the USGS to begin to (1) 'map' carbon at national, regional, and local scales; (2) calculate present carbon storage at land surface; and (3) identify those areas having the greatest potential to sequester carbon.