Biosequestration refers to the process through which living organisms, primarily plants, capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This is mainly achieved through photosynthesis, where plants absorb CO2 and sunlight to produce glucose and oxygen. The carbon from the CO2 is then incorporated into plant tissues such as stems, roots, and leaves. Over time, this results in significant carbon storage, thereby acting as a buffer against the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, which are responsible for global warming and climate change.
Forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other natural ecosystems have historically played a major role in biosequestration. Among these, forests, especially mature and old-growth ones, are the most efficient, storing vast amounts of carbon in their biomass. However, with deforestation and other anthropogenic activities causing habitat destruction, the rate of carbon sequestration has been affected.
Given this backdrop, agroforestry becomes an essential strategy, particularly in densely populated countries like India, which need to balance food production, biodiversity conservation, and climate action.
Agroforestry in India: A Biosequestration Approach
Agroforestry, the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems, has been practiced for millennia in India. The benefits are manifold: from improved soil fertility and reduced soil erosion to enhanced water retention and increased biodiversity. Importantly, agroforestry also offers a powerful means of biosequestration, turning farms into carbon sinks.
Bund Planting in North India: In the plains of northern India, planting trees on field bunds or embankments prevents soil erosion. Trees like Populus and Dalbergia sissoo act as windbreaks, conserve soil moisture, and sequester carbon.
Coffee Agroforestry in Western Ghats: Shade-grown coffee in the Western Ghats is a classic example of agroforestry. The multi-storied system, with a canopy of native trees above coffee shrubs, allows for significant carbon storage.
Silvipasture in Central India: This system marries forestry with pasture, allowing livestock to graze under a canopy of trees. The trees, often native species, enhance carbon storage while providing fodder and shade.
Homestead Agroforestry in Kerala: Kerala's homesteads are verdant mixtures of fruit trees, timber species, and crops, optimizing land use and maximizing carbon storage.
Rice-Fish Culture with Trees in Northeast India: Combining aquaculture with rice farming and tree planting is an integrated approach that boosts farm productivity and sequesters carbon.
Bamboo Plantations: Bamboo, with its rapid growth rate, is an excellent carbon sink. Plantations of bamboo or its integration into farming systems can sequester significant carbon amounts.
Agri-Horti Systems in Dry Regions: In the arid landscapes of Rajasthan and adjoining areas, integrating hardy tree species with traditional crops helps in carbon sequestration and provides shade and moisture.
In conclusion, agroforestry systems in India showcase how traditional knowledge combined with modern practices can provide sustainable solutions. As climate change intensifies, such integrated practices will be essential for food security, biodiversity conservation, and mitigation of global warming