A first of its kind carbon sequestration trial has been unveiled in Carmarthenshire today.

More than 25,000 new trees will be planted on 28 acres of land, with the trial aiming to accelerate and enhance the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through reforestation.  

Running in partnership with scientists from Switzerland, the University of Sheffield, the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London and The Royal Botanic Gardens, the project will combine two nature-based climate solutions never previously deployed together at scale: forest microbiome inoculation and the deployment of enhanced rock weathering.

Forest and soil microbiome | Complex community of soil bacteria and fungi, integral to how trees obtain soil resources and grow. Trees provide carbohydrates from photosynthesis to the fungi while the fungi provide soil nutrients to the trees. While mining the soil for nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, the fungi pump carbon into the soil and suppress decomposers that would release carbon back into the air.
Enhanced Rock Weathering | A natural geological process which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The addition of basalt to the soil has the potential to dramatically increase the carbon removal and accelerate the establishment of new forests.

The hope is that together, they will accelerate and enhance carbon removal in conifer and broadleaf forests. 

Charles Nicholls, co-founder of The Carbon Community, who launched the project, said: “Reforestation is one of the most powerful tools we have to combat climate breakdown, much of which will happen on agricultural land.

“Intensively farmed land is often stripped of the native biodiversity and minerals needed for optimal tree establishment.

“With this unique project we aim to restore biodiversity, enhance tree survival and unlock huge potential to accelerate and enhance the carbon stored in trees and soil.”

Over the first two years, the project will measure the carbon stored in the trees and soil in the area, with the results identifying the combination of treatments where the most carbon has been sequestered.

If it is a success, the project could be scaled up to accelerate and enhance carbon removal from the atmosphere.

READ MORE: What next for Government's new climate ministry?

The field trial is the first of its kind andwhere in the world and the results will be made freely available to other tree planting projects and environmental scientists.

Talking about the potential benefits of applying basalt to soil, Professor David Beerling of the University of Sheffield said: “Our recent research revealed that applying basalt to croplands could absorb up to two billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

“This exciting new partnership with The Carbon Community enables us to understand basalt addition in a reforestation project, including the potential carbon sequestration when co-deployed with forest microbiome restoration.

“To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to urgently scale-up carbon removal strategies, alongside deep emissions cuts.”

Tree planting is expected to be high on the agenda at the upcoming UN Biodiversity Summit and COP26, with countries across the world pledging ambitious reforestation targets to tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity decline. 

In Wales, at least 44,000 acres of woodland have disappeared since 2001, the equivalent of 40 million trees.

Today, only around 15% of Wales is woodland, but the Government has committed to delivering a new national forest for Wales.

READ MORE: Most Welsh habitats in unfavourable position

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “This is a critical time for nature.

“If we are going to tackle the interconnected nature and climate crises and turn the tide on decades of biodiversity decline, we need to act now to ensure the resilience of our planet’s life support system.

“We all stand to benefit from committing to nature’s recovery, and woodland creation can play a significant role in long term carbon sequestration for future generations. NRW lends its full support to this exciting initiative as a key component to accelerating our approach to tackling the climate crisis.”

The National is running its first Environmental Awards to celebrate the best green practices and climate-action projects across Wales.

The awards will shine a spotlight on the individuals, companies and organisations doing outstanding work to protect the environment and tackle climate change.

Find more information on the criteria and how to nominate here.

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