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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Volcanic Ground Cover Slows Climate Change

Pile of crushed volcanic rock

Researchers are using recycled rock dust to enrich farm and rangeland soils to accelerate the processes by which soils capture atmospheric carbon. The natural process of rock weathering provides a proven method of capturing carbon from the atmosphere and putting it into the soil, where it may remain for centuries.

Benjamin Z. Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, says, “Soil can be part of the solution set. It will not save us, but it can help to put us on path to negative emissions.” Field testing has been conducted for a year with positive early findings. Iris Holzer, a Ph.D. student at the University of California-Davis, has seen a doubling of the rate of carbon capture in soils with rock amendments compared to soils without.

Excess carbon speeds up the greenhouse effect, which causes rising temperatures and other challenges to global security, food production, economic growth, infrastructure and human and ecosystem health. Over a five-year period, crushed volcanic rock added to agricultural soils across the globe could remove 2.8 billion tons of carbon.