Capturing Carbon in Urban Soil: What is Possible in Cities

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Soil is the Earth’s largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon. Depending on land use and management approaches, it can function as either a source or a sink of atmospheric CO2. If implemented at scale, land management practices that enhance the sequestration capacity of soil, such as “no-till” and high cover crop farming techniques, hold the promise of not only slowing but also reducing present day and future net atmospheric carbon concentrations. As a consequence, “soil sequestration” has begun to assume a greater prominence in discussions concerning anthropogenic climate change and how best to confront it.

In agriculture, sequestering carbon in soil delivers many well-understood and immediate benefits in addition to potential emissions offsets. These include restored soil quality and ecosystem services; improved water and nutrient retention; reduced erosion and pollution; and increased agronomic productivity and food security.  

But what about cities? Indeed, vacant, marginal and planned green spaces are soil rich and make up a significant share of the contemporary urban environment. While less advanced in both theory and practice, the carbon sequestration potential of soil is now being studied and pioneered in urban settings throughout the world, including New York.

In this panel local soil scientists and practitioners will introduce key soil sequestration concepts; summarize emerging research findings; and provide an overview of urban restoration, compost incorporation and other methods that aim to increase urban soil carbon, while yielding additional pollution and waste reduction benefits.

speakers
Sara Perl Egendorf Ph.D.
Student, CUNY Graduate Center

Sara Perl Egendorf is a Ph.D. student in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College studying urban soil. She researches human interactions with urban soil contaminants and nutrients on multiple scales and her work is focused on the potential for urban soil to promote environmental justice and sustainability. She conducted the pilot study for the NYC Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation’s Clean Soil Bank for her Masters Thesis at Brooklyn College and is currently working on research with the NYS Department of Health and Cornell University on sources of lead contamination that are deposited on vegetables in community gardens. She holds a Master’s in Teaching from the University of Washington, a Bachelor’s in Education from Brown University, and has been teaching in k-12 schools, museums, community centers, and college settings for the past 15 years.

Peter Groffman Ph.D.
Microbial Ecologist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Peter Groffman is a Professor at the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center and Brooklyn College Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. He has research interests in ecosystem, soil, landscape and microbial ecology, with a focus on carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Groffman is chair of the Science Council of the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network and a participant in LTER projects in Baltimore (urban) and New Hampshire (northern hardwood forests). Groffman was a Convening Lead Author for the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment Chapter on Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and a lead author for the Second (Wetlands) and Third (North America) Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Program on Climate Change (IPCC).

moderator
Chris Neidl
Clean energy advocate and educator

Christopher Neidl is a clean energy policy advocate, educator and project advisor with thirteen years of experience facilitating on-grid and off-grid clean energy adoption in the United States, Asia and Africa. Chris is currently a senior research consultant for the non-profit organization Arc Finance. In this role, he is tasked with producing a series of reports for Indian public sector stakeholders concerning the potential role of the Indian microfinance sector in advancing the central government’s rural energy access objectives. Prior to joining the Arc team in January 2017, Chris served as the founding director of Here Comes Solar (2014-2016), an initiative of the non-profit organization Solar One that facilitates solar adoption in high demand-high barrier segments of New York City’s residential sector, with an emphasis on underserved multi-family affordable and cooperative housing properties. Chris has served as moderator for previous Urban Green Council events, as well several other local, national and international conferences including the Asia Clean Energy Forum, U.N. Climate Week, and the American Solar Energy Society.

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77 Water Street, East River Meeting Room (4th Floor)
New York, NY 10005

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