It turns out our lawns can play a very significant role in the efforts to reduce the effects of global warming. Through the process of photosynthesis, grass takes in carbon dioxide and stores carbon in the soil. Recent studies at Ohio State University have shown that lawns can remove and store twice the amount of carbon from the air in a year then a tree can in 10.
There is an estimated 80 million home lawns in the U.S. covering an estimated 50 million acres, an area 3 times larger than the largest irrigated crop. It is estimated that up to 800 lbs of carbon per acre is sequestered by turfgrass each year; almost 1/2 ton per acre. This results in 20 million tons of carbon being removed from the atmosphere each year in the U. S. alone.
Why is this important? Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have risen dramatically in recent years, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels and dramatic changes in land use. CO2 is a one of the most important greenhouse gases that trap solar heat in the atmosphere, essential to making planet Earth habitable. Too much CO2 in the atmosphere however, will cause more heat to be trapped, causing global temperatures to rise, leading to climatic changes. By removing CO2 from the air, turfgrass may help to reduce the effects of climate change.
And what about emissions from the equipment to maintain the lawn. Recent studies have shown that managed lawns will capture 4 times more carbon than is produced by the average lawnmower. For well maintained lawns, with regular mowing, fertilization, and responsible watering, net carbon capture results can be even higher.
Reducing our own individual carbon footprint might best be done right at home.As stated by Dr. Thomas L. Watschke, Pennsylvania State University, "The strategic use of turfgrass is the most sensible and economically feasible approach to countering the greenhouse effect in urban areas."