Wednesday, November 9, 2016
4:00 pm
Arms 155 (Robert P. Sharp Lecture Hall)

Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar

Balancing Carbon by the Gigaton in Soils and Seas: Can Ecosystems be Restored while Ensuring Global Food Security?
Brian von Herzen, Executive Director, The Climate Foundation

Feeding a growing global population is straining arable land capacity and marine ecosystems. The Climate Foundation works to  restore global macronutrient cycling on land and sea during periods of climate disruption while concurrently balancing gigatons of carbon in soils and seas. These ecosystems can provide natural models of sustainable solutions that can be  made resilient to climate disruption to meet food security challenges.

Over the last decade, Climate Foundation has been working on pyrolyzers to produce biochar (biological charcoal) from organic waste and draw carbon from the atmosphere, providing a carbon sink on agricultural lands. Biochar provides net carbon fixation from the atmosphere for centuries to millennia. Currently we are developing a "Charvesting" system to eliminate rice straw burning across northern India, by affordably recycling rice straw into biochar and creating value chains. These processes are highly applicable to California climate as well, especially in times of drought. A huge amount of biochar will be available from beetle kill trees in the Sierras. This month we have received support from the University of Chicago Urban Labs Delhi to implement this system in northern India.

Today's warmer surface waters limit natural overturning circulation, reducing nutrients, seaweed, fish habitat and forage fish upon which other fish depend. We develop Marine Permaculture(TM) Arrays (MPAs) to enable kelp forest growth and provide habitat for fish, building a sustainable ecosystem. This year we won the Australian National Government Blue Economy Challenge to restore marine productivity and generate sustainable income for 10,000 seaweed farmers in Zanzibar. Nutrient management in freshwater environments is analyzed using natural history as a guide. Azolla, an aquatic fern can double its mass in three days while fixing nitrogen. Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide were reduced by 3000 ppm during the natural Azolla Event of 49 Ma.

Contact Kathy Young katyoung@gps.caltech.edu at 626-395-8732
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