Landscape Heroes: Carbon, Water and Biodiversity

See program below, with links to videos!

A collaboration with the Ecological Landscape Alliance, NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association), NOFA Organic Land Care, and Biodiversity for a Livable Climate 

UMass Amherst, Tuesday, January 31st:Phytoremediation-Canal-Cleaning-Island-of-Plants-300x225

An in-depth, inspiring conversation on Carbon Sequestration and learn what practical steps you can take to ensure that your interactions with the landscape make positive impacts.


This day-long program included many land care practitioners including land managers, farmers, researchers, and conservationists about what is possible for soil carbon and landscape restoration. From yards to farms to greenways to commons to gardens, how we treat our soils impacts the climate.

We know soil is alive. In fact, in one tablespoon of healthy soil there are more microorganisms than there are people on this planet. A highly functional, thriving soil has the capacity to Vermont-Composting-300x290store carbon, absorb water like a sponge, and support a thriving landscape. For years we have viewed soil through its physical and chemical properties, and we are beginning to realize the crucial role of biology in soil function and health. Now we are finding that from back yards to farms to greenways to commons to gardens, how we treat our soils has implications for the global climate.

Join Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, the Ecological Landscape Alliance, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA/Mass), and the Organic Land Care of NOFA/CT for a day-long program that offers practical tips and applications for how you, too, can be part of the climate solution. Whether you are a gardening enthusiast, farmer, conservation/restoration specialist, or landscape professional, there are positive changes that you can make. Whether you work to reduce compaction using biology, actively build soil carbon, increase soil biodiversity and resilience above and below ground, or heal degraded landscapes, you will walk away with practical tips to apply to your own setting. The synergy of many individuals taking small steps can result in big impacts!

Come learn from experts in the field such as carbon expert and author, rancher and activist Courtney White with his new book Two Percent Solutions for the Planet. Additional carbon experts include Eric Fleisher, Chip Osborne, Paul Wagner, Bruce Fulford, Bryan O’Hara, Hugh McLaughlin, PhD, and Jim Laurie.

Visit Ecological Landscape Alliance for speaker bios and conference schedule.

Morning Session Focus
Understanding Carbon in the Landscape

8:35 – Two Percent Solutions for the Planet
Courtney White, Author, Regenerative Land Management Activist
The potential for large-scale removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through plant photosynthesis and related land-based carbon sequestration activities is both large and largely overlooked. Strategies and co-benefits include: enriching soil carbon, no-till farming with perennials, employing climate-friendly livestock practices, conserving natural habitat, restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands, increasing biodiversity, and producing local food. In Two Percent Solutions for the Planet, Courtney White profiles fifty different strategies that work together economically and ecologically with the aim of reducing the atmospheric content of CO2 while producing substantial co-benefits for all living things.

9:30 – Understanding Compaction
Eric T. Fleisher, Landscape Designer
Severely compacted soil has poor structure and soil foodweb diversity which results in poor carbon harvesting. T. Fleisher will explain compaction causes and cures (across all managed landscapes).

10:00  – Digging Deep into Soil Practices
Bryan O’Hara, Farmer
Continuing the compaction discussion, Mr. OHara will focus on boosting soil biology with no-till farming, cover cropping, and Korean Natural Farming practices. The common thread is the focus on beneficial fungal growth and the role that Fungi play in carbon sequestration.

10:45 – Building Biodiversity
Jim Laurie, Restoration Ecologist
Restoring biodiversity to the land is the key to a healthy water cycle, building carbon rich organic matter in soils, and improving plant health and immunity to disease.  Mr. Laurie will show how the symbiosis of mycorrhizal fungi, insects, nematodes, and beaver once built soils tens of feet deep. Jim will also discuss how improving the infiltration of rainwater into the soil can ameliorate the flood and drought cycles we have seen in recent years.

11:15 – Moderated Panel with Morning Speakers
Courtney White, T. Fleisher, Bryan O’Hara, Jim Laurie

Afternoon Session Focus – Humans as Agents for Positive Change
Speakers offer their “Top 5 List” of what YOU can do!

1:15 –Understanding Soil Biology: The Trophic Levels
Paul Wagner, Certified Arborist
A review of trophic levels and how to ensure that at least the first three levels are present to build landscape health, including discussion of specific techniques.  Beyond the basics of bacteria and fungi, Mr. Wagner will help us to understand the third trophic level (the shredders, predators and grazers).

1:45 – The Importance of Compost
Bruce Fulford, Owner, City Soil and Greenhouse, Boston
Mr. Fulford explains compost from multiple feedstock streams and how to apply it for best long term soil stabilization. We will learn about the carbon release of traditional compost applications and how different feedstocks have different long term effects. Every plant pulls in carbon and we learn how to maximize the results.

2:15 – Biochar’s Role in the Landscape
Hugh McLaughlin, Ph.D., Biochar Engineer, CTO NextChar, Inc.
Creating biochar is an ancient technique brought forward in time to keep carbon both stable and active in the soil for much longer than compost. What does it take to access and use modern biochar – and what is needed to inoculate it before large scale application?  Dr. McLaughlin will help us to understand net carbon – carbon sink, carbon neutral, carbon emitting – and how we can work toward the goal of creating carbon sinks.

2:45 – Turf – Ecological Options
Chip Osborne, Horticulturalist
Mr. Osborne takes a close look at how grass roots and their seasonal surging (expansion and contraction) can help to create soil. We learn to increase biodiversity by allowing broadleaved plants (weeds!) to mix into conventional turf and how this can heighten the quality of soil life supported by root exudates. With lawns covering large expanses of the landscape, even small changes can have a big impact.

3:30 – Moderated Panel with Afternoon Speakers
Chip Osborne, Paul Wagner, Hugh McLaughlin, Bruce Fulford

4:00 – Wrap-up
Courtney White
NOTE: This presentation was shortened due to an incoming snowstorm!

One person makes a small contribution but many people, acting with intent and carbon awareness, can make a much bigger contribution to carbon sequestration and global climate stability. Take the information from today and work it into all of your land management decisions – whether you’re managing (or helping to manage) a back yard, a farm, or an institutional land management program.