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  Cornell University

Managing Farm & Forest Landscapes

Integrating climate mitigation with healthy air, clean water, and vibrant economies


Recent News:

Natural Climate Solutions for the United States, Fargione et al., Sci. Adv. 2018; 4 : 1869 16 November 2018
  • Limiting climate warming to <2°C requires increased mitigation efforts, including land stewardship, whose potential in the United States is poorly understood. We quantified the potential of natural climate solutions (NCSs)—21 conservation, restoration, and improved land management interventions on natural and agricultural lands—to increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. We found a maximum potential of 1.3 (0.8 to 1.7) Pg CO2e year−1, the equivalent of 22% of current net annual emissions of the United States. At current carbon market prices (USD 10 per Mg CO2e), 299 Tg CO2e year−1 could be achieved. NCS would also provide air and water filtration, flood control, soil health, wildlife habitat, and climate resilience benefits.
Defining a best practice methodology for modeling the environmental performance of agriculture. Environmental Science & Policy September 2018
  • ABSTRACT: Robust quantification of the environmental performance of agricultural management practices is critical both for ensuring regulatory compliance and for creating accountability in voluntary environmental markets and corporate sustainability commitments. Because environmental impacts cannot be measured under all conditions and on all farms, models are required. However, models must be used appropriately if predictions of environmental performance are to be reliable. To assist policymakers and stakeholders, we define a 7-step process for model selection and use, and present a case study applying this 7-step process to greenhouse gas emissions from corn (Zea mays L.) fields in the USA. Based on this case study and other examples from the literature, we suggest that all models are limited by the data available to validate them for different combinations of cropping systems, management practices, site conditions, and types of environmental performance. Additionally, both statistical and process models are much more reliable for making predictions of environmental performance for multiple fields and years than for predictions of a single location and year. We suggest that using this 7-step process will help improve predictions of environmental performance for regulatory and voluntary purposes at local, state, and national scales.
Dynamic model-based N management reduces surplus nitrogen and improves the environmental performance of corn production. Environmental Research Letters 2018
  • ABSTRACT: The US Midwest is the largest and most intensive corn (Zea mays, L.) production region in the world. However, N losses from corn systems cause serious environmental impacts including dead zones in coastal waters, groundwater pollution, particulate air pollution, and global warming. New approaches to reducing N losses are urgently needed. N surplus is gaining attention as such an approach for multiple cropping systems. We combined experimental data from 127 on-farm field trials conducted in seven US states during the 2011–2016 growing seasons with biochemical simulations using the PNM model to quantify the benefits of a dynamic location-adapted management approach to reduce N surplus. We found that this approach allowed large reductions in N rate (32%) and N surplus (36%) compared to existing static approaches, without reducing yield and substantially reducing yield-scaled N losses (11%). Across all sites, yield-scaled N losses increased linearly with N surplus values above ~48 kg ha−1. Using the dynamic model-based N management approach enabled growers to get much closer to this target than using existing static methods, while maintaining yield. Therefore, this approach can substantially reduce N surplus and N pollution potential compared to static N management.
Agriculture can mitigate climate change at low cost to help meet Paris Agreement goals BioScience June 2018.
  • ABSTRACT: The Paris Climate Agreement represents an ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit global climate warming to between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius (°C). Although the focus is on reduction of fossil-fuel emissions, improved land-management practices offer a crucial opportunity to contribute to this goal while also providing other important cobenefits, including provision of clean water, reduction in air pollution, and maintenance of biodiversity. A recent global analysis found that 20 cost-effective pathways of conservation, restoration, and improved land-management practices could reduce emissions by 11.3 petagrams of carbon dioxide equivalent (PgCO2e) per year, representing 37 percent of the Paris Agreement goal by the year 2030 (Griscom et al. 2017). This analysis also found that 4.1 PgCO2e per year of this emission reduction was low cost ($10 per megagram of carbon dioxide equivalent or less). This letter focuses on these low-cost opportunities because it is critically important to implement them as soon as possible, recognizing that more costly or complex solutions may take longer to implement.
The Nitrogen Balancing Act, Tracking the Environmental Performance of Food Production, February 2018


  • ABSTRACT: Farmers, food supply-chain entities, and policymakers need a simple but robust indicator to demonstrate progress toward reducing nitrogen pollution associated with food production. We show that nitrogen balance—the difference between nitrogen inputs and nitrogen outputs in an agricultural production system—is a robust measure of nitrogen losses that is simple to calculate, easily understood, and based on readily available farm data. Nitrogen balance provides farmers with a means of demonstrating to an increasingly concerned public that they are succeeding in reducing nitrogen losses while also improving the overall sustainability of their farming operation. Likewise, supply-chain companies and policymakers can use nitrogen balance to track progress toward sustainability goals. We describe the value of nitrogen balance in translating environmental targets into actionable goals for farmers and illustrate the potential roles of science, policy, and agricultural support networks in helping farmers achieve them.


US Carbon Mapper,
Scientists Lay Out 20 Natural Solutions to Curb Climate Change, Newsweek, November 2017
  • ABSTRACT: “Natural climate solutions” could help the world reach the goals of the Paris climate agreement—which include keeping the world’s temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. There are 20 conservation, restoration and land management actions that could help, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. By increasing how much carbon the land can store through absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, these steps could provide 37 percent of carbon dioxide mitigation necessary through 2030.


Ecosystem service payments for switchgrass production could improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.  Woodbury PB, 14 March, 2017.
Counting Carbon in Bioenergy Systems: Opportunities and Challenges. Woodbury PB. Invited national presentation in the Clean Power Plan. 9 February, 2016.
Marginal Lands and Bioenergy. Richards B, Woodbury PB, Hansen J (all co-presenters). 11 November 2014.
Bioenergy Feedstock Production in the NE: Land Use, Yields, and Sustainability. 9 April 2013





Worksheets for Identifying Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities
  • These AEM Tier 2 GHG Mitigation Opportunity Worksheets are designed to be used in concert with the other relevant Tier 2 Assessment Worksheets ( for educators and farmers to gauge management and encourage discussion across a range of resources, including water quality, GHGs, farm productivity, and adaptation.
  • Please see Relevant Information Sheets just below.


Introduction to Farm & Forest Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities
Soil Carbon Management & Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities
Nitrogen Fertilizer Management & Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities
Dairy Manure Storage & Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities
Planning for Quantitative Methane Capture & Destruction from Liquid Dairy Manure Storage
Forest Management & Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities
Energy Efficiency & Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities (by Deb Grantham)
Glossary of farm & forest GHG-related terms


Carbon and Communities: Linking Carbon Science with Public Policy and Resource Management in the Northeastern United States






Renewable Fuels Roadmap and Sustainable Biomass Feedstock Supply for New York
Analysis of sustainable feedstock production potential in New York State_Appendix_E



Understanding Nutrient Cycling and Sediment Sources in the Upper Susquehanna River Basin




Natural Climate Solutions for the United States, Fargione et al., Sci. Adv. 2018; 4 : 1869 16 November 2018
Defining a best practice methodology for modeling the environmental performance of agriculture. Environmental Science & Policy. September 2018.
Dynamic model-based N management reduces surplus nitrogen and improves the environmental performance of corn production. Environmental Research Letters. 2018.
Agriculture can mitigate climate change at low cost to help meet Paris Agreement goals BioScience June 2018.
The Nitrogen Balancing Act, Tracking the Environmental Performance of Food Production. February 2018.


Natural climate solutions, PNAS, September 2017
Effects of Transgenic Crops on the Environment  [Chapter in Environmental Pest Management: Challenges for Agronomists, Ecologists, Economists and Policymakers (eds. E. Wajnberg & M. Coll). Wiley. ISBN: 9781119255550].
Assessing soil carbon vulnerability in the Western USA by geospatial modeling of pyrogenic and particulate carbon stocks


New York Dairy Manure Management Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Costs (1992–2022) New York Dairy Manure_SUPPLEMENT
Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agricultural and Forest Landscapes for Policy Development and Verification


Assessing Sustainable Bioenergy Feedstock Production Potentialby Integrated Geospatial Analysis of Land Use and Land Quality
Assessing Sustainable Bioenergy Feedstock Production Potential_SUPPLEMENT
Land Quality and Management Practices Strongly Affect Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Bioenergy Feedstocks
Untapped Potential: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Bioenergy Production from Marginal Lands in the Northeast USA


 Reporting on Marginal Lands for BioenergyFeedstock Production: a Modest Proposal


 A watershed-scale goals approach to assessing and fundingwastewater infrastructure


Bank Erosion in Fifteen Tributaries in the Glaciated Upper Susquehanna Basin of New York and Pennsylvania
Local-Scale Carbon Budgets and Mitigation Opportunities for the Northeastern United States


Review of Methods for Developing Probabilistic Risk Assessments. Part 1: Modeling Fire
Review of Methods for Developing Regional Probabilistic Risk Assessments, Part 2: Modeling Invasive Plant, Insect, and Pathogen Species


Australian climate–carbon cycle feedback reduced by soil black carbon
Australian climate–carbon cycle feedback SUPPLEMENT


Effects of land use change on soil carbon cycling in the conterminous United States from 1900 to 2050
Carbon sequestration in the U.S. forest sector from 1990 to 2010
Land-Use Change and Stream Water Fluxes: Decadal Dynamics in Watershed Nitrate Exports
Variations in sediment sources and yields in the Finger Lakesand Catskills regions of New York


Land Use Change Effects on Forest Carbon Cycling Throughout the Southern United States


 Long-term nitrate export pattern from Hubbard Brook


How to Estimate Forest Carbon for Large Areas from Inventory Data


Do’s and dont’s of spatially explicit ecological risk assessment


Using the ECLPSS software environment to build a spatially explicit component-based model of ozone effects on forest ecosystems


 The Risks and Benefits of Genetically Modified Crops


Assessing potential climate change effects on loblolly pine growth
Gypsum application reduces selenium uptake by vegetation on coal ash landfill
Assessing trace element uptake by vegetation on a coal fly ash landfill
A review of selenium uptake, transformation, and accumulation by plants with particular reference to coal fly ash landfills
What materials should be composted
The Impact of Separation on Heavy Metal Contaminants in Municipal Solid Waste Composts
Chronic Ozone Exposure Increases the Susceptibility of Hybrid Populus to Disease Caused by Septoria Musiva
Trace elements in municipal solid waste composts
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