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Ecosystem Service Valuation


Rutgers Study Unveils New Carbon Mitigation Solutions to Combat Climate Change

EMILY EVERSON LAYDEN / RUTGERS TODAY – Increasing adoption of agricultural practices such as cover cropping, grazing management and agroforestry can increase the amount of carbon stored in soils to help combat climate change, according to a new report by researchers from Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the University of Maine.

The study, titled “Ecosystem Service Valuation Approaches and Carbon Mitigation Considerations for Garden State Agriculture,” explores how New Jersey’s plants and soils can help to absorb and store carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions.

New Jersey’s farmlands, forests and wetlands together can offset nearly 8 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act 80 X 50 Report notes that these lands, along with strategies to increase their carbon storage capacities, will be essential if New Jersey is to meet its 2050 emissions reduction goal.

“Our study focused on understanding the current state of knowledge regarding the storage of carbon in agricultural soils, and on identifying the types of programs, barriers and opportunities to further carbon sequestration on ag land, with a particular emphasis on New Jersey,” said Marjorie Kaplan, co-director of the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center at Rutgers.

Stephanie Murphy, a co-author of the study and director of Rutgers Soil Testing Lab, said, “It is well-documented that loss of soil carbon has been occurring over many decades from certain farming practices, affecting soil health and sustainability, but modifying these practices can address some of the deficit while also using the land as a carbon sink.”

The report outlines considerations to increase soil carbon sequestration from agronomic practices, while also providing a scan of the landscape and lessons from other states and programs that could be applicable for agriculture in New Jersey.

“Although there is scientific debate within the research community about the amount of carbon that can be stored in soil and how best to monitor and quantify it, there are many benefits to agricultural practices like cover cropping, improved grazing management and agroforestry that can also increase soil carbon,” said Wendie Cohick, director of research for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

The researchers interviewed more than 50 experts in ecosystem valuation programs for natural and working lands from more than 30 governmental, nongovernmental, academic and private sector organizations. Although sequestration of carbon is not the primary driver for many programs, it is a co-benefit along with multiple ecosystem services such as promoting soil health, improved water quality, climate resiliency and flood mitigation.

“Important co-benefits of these ecosystem services can include improved public health, enhanced biodiversity and creation of green jobs,” said Margaret Brennan, director for resources and economic development at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

Mark Robson, a co-author and Distinguished Professor of plant biology, said, New Jersey farm real estate value averages $14,400 per acre and ranks second nationally behind Rhode Island’s average of $16,400 per acre.

“The strong farmland preservation program in New Jersey has saved over 241,000 acres of farmland from development,” he said. “These preserved farms and other working farmland provide an important opportunity to mitigate climate change and keep agriculture viable in New Jersey.”

“Agriculture can definitely be part of the solution to climate change in New Jersey, and this report sets the table for how the farm community can think about where the pressure points are, so that we can move forward on programs that are a win-win for the climate and the producer,” said Brian Schilling, director of Cooperative Extension for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

Meet the Climate Corps

Angel Alguera, Rutgers Climate CorpsAngel Alguera
I am a first-year Atmospheric Science master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and my work focuses on meteorology and applications of climate change resiliency. My professional interests include severe weather forecasting and community preparedness regarding weather-related disasters. I work with Dr. James Shope at the NJ Climate Change Resource Center to produce applied research and reports relevant to New Jersey stakeholders. I currently assist with climate change data analysis, large dataset management, and report writing.

Daniel GilkesonDaniel Gilkeson
I’m a second-year master’s student in the City and Regional Planning Program with a concentration in environmental planning. As a planner, I hope to build more resilient communities in the face of increased risk due to climate change. With the Climate Change Resource Center, I am working on a project to aid the state in an update of its floodplain buyout program, known as Blue Acres, to be more proactive and comprehensive. Prior to this position, I interned in the Community and Economic Development Office at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Association. I’m also an AmeriCorps alum, having completed a year of service working on affordable housing in Nashville, Tennessee.

Benjamin GoldbergBenjamin Goldberg
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, with experience in sustainable food systems. I joined the Climate Corps last summer to help develop a GIS-based food waste recovery tool, and currently support community resilience through flood vulnerability analysis. I hold a B.A. from Middlebury College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.

Surya Jacob, Rutgers Climate CorpsSurya Jacob
I am a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School concentrating in community development, focused on housing, land and finance, as well as pursuing the Real Estate Development/Redevelopment Certification. Prior to Bloustein, I worked as an architect and interior designer in India and Canada and am pivoting towards a career in urban planning to engage in extensive projects at the macro level. My interests include affordable and mixed income housing, urban redevelopment, and housing finance, and I am deeply passionate about climate resilience in community planning. Being part of Climate Corps is a foundational step towards helping to solve equity issues in vulnerable communities along the coastal region.

Vineesh Das Kodakkandathil, RutgersVineesh Das Kodakkandathil
I am an urban planner with five years of professional experience in community-led ecotourism development and land use and environment management planning in ecologically sensitive areas. I have worked on and conducted extensive environmental sensitivity analyses, flood and landslide vulnerability assessments, and human impact assessments with the help of GIS tools. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in City and Regional Planning at Bloustein School with a concentration in Transport Planning and GIS.

Douglas LeungDouglas Leung
I am working with the Climate Change Resource Center to identify vulnerable communities and places affected by climate-induced flooding in coastal New Jersey municipalities. I am a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a planner, I want to develop strategies and solve problems affecting our cities and communities that enable more equitable outcomes in housing and transportation. I am also a recent Army veteran, having served as a company commander of recruiting in the northern suburbs of Chicago and as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division. For fun, I enjoy weightlifting, running, reading fiction, and board games.

Nihar MhatreNihar Mhatre
I am a master’s candidate in city and regional planning at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, focusing on urban design and land use planning. Before being accepted at Rutgers, I worked as an architect at JD Studio and had my own architectural practice, Vastu Insights. My research interests revolve around designing and developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies to promote equity in urban landscapes. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects through Climate Corps will be an essential step in the development of my understanding of addressing climate change issues in vulnerable regions.

Justin MorrisJustin Morris
Justin is a master’s student at Rutgers University studying discovery informatics and data sciences. He is working under Professor Mark Rodgers to develop an optimization model that will act as a decision support tool for university financial investments with the end goal of eliminating Rutgers’ scope 2 emissions. He is excited to apply his background in data analytics and mathematical programming to help the university fight climate change.

Josephine O'GradyJosephine O’Grady
I am a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Through the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) certification, I am focusing a significant portion of my graduate coursework on topics including coastal geomorphology, environmental justice, and hazard mitigation planning. Before beginning my studies at the Bloustein School, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health from Kean University, where I first became interested in how coastal dynamics shape lived experiences. I previously served as an intern at the New Jersey State Policy Lab and currently work for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Jessica Parineet Jessica Parineet
I am a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Bloustein School with a strong interest in climate change policy and related topics. In my previous work, I gained experience in a number of dimensions of climate change issues through carbon capture storage research, urban heat island research, and community level engagement as I am currently on the Student Advisory Board for the Rutgers Office of Climate Action. I am excited to expand on my interests in environmental justice and local level resilience planning through my involvement in the Climate Corps.

Dillon Patel Dillan Patel
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Environmental Planning and International Development. I have previously worked as an economist performing cost-benefit analysis and conducting monitoring and evaluation for renewable energy in developing countries. I have also spent a summer in western Massachusetts mapping stormwater infrastructure and working with planners to identify suitable places for green stormwater infrastructure.

Moira Sweeder, Rutgers Climate CorpsMoira Sweeder
I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. My concentration is environmental planning with a focus on coastal resilience. Before pursuing my master’s degree at Rutgers, I studied sustainability at Stockton University. During this time, I interned for the PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, and NJ Audubon. I am thrilled to now be a part of the Climate Corps, researching coastal resilience as a part of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

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