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Mulch could slow global warming: UBCO study

Craig Nichol, senior instructor of Earth and Environmental Sciences holds mulch, the focus of an environmental study.
Image Credit: UBC
July 01, 2016 - 2:30 PM

KELOWNA - Researchers at the local campus of the University of British Columbia have discovered mulch is much more than a landscape accessory.

Craig Nichol, senior instructor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UBC Okanagan, found using mulch in agriculture can cut nitrous oxide emissions by up to 28 per cent.

In the two-year study, emissions-recording chambers were put on bare soil and on soil covered by mulch. This was part of a larger study with Melanie Jones and Louise Nelson, also UBC researchers.

Mulched areas had a 74 per cent reduction in soil nitrates and reduced levels of nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrates are the source material for nitrous oxide emissions and can seep into groundwater, according to a UBC media release.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says nitrous oxide from soil makes up one half of agriculture emissions that contribute to global warming. Emission levels are often higher in agricultural soil because of fertilizer and manure use.

“In addition to saving water, improving soil, combatting pests and stopping weeds, wood mulch actually reduces the release of a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” Nichol says. “Provided you are not driving great distances to obtain the mulch, it would appear that mulch could be a powerful tool in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly if used in these agricultural systems.”


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