With the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, several technical problems and policy issues have arisen that must be solved if practical implementations are to become a reality, in particular the implementation of projects under the Clean Development Mechanism. One of the main technical issues is the definition of a standard set of methods and procedures for the inventory and monitoring of stocks and sequestration of carbon (C) in current and potential land uses and management approaches. Deliberate land management actions that enhance the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) or reduce its emissions have the potential to remove a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere in the short and medium term. The quantities involved may be large enough to satisfy a portion of the Kyoto Protocol commitments for some countries, but are not large enough to stabilize atmospheric concentrations without major reductions in fossil fuel consumption.
Carbon sequestration options or sinks that include land-use changes (LUCs, or the acronym LULUCF, meaning land use, land-use change and forestry) can be deployed relatively rapidly at moderate cost. Thus, they could play a useful bridging role while new energy technologies are being developed. The challenge remains to find a commonly agreed and scientifically sound methodological framework and equitable ways of accounting for carbon sinks. These should encourage and reward activities that increase the amount of C stored in terrestrial ecosystems while at the same time avoiding rules that reward inappropriate activities or inaction. Collateral issues such as the effects of LUC on biodiversity and on the status of land degradation need to be addressed simultaneously with the issue of carbon sequestration once economic incentives are perceived as rewards for sinks. The synergies between the UN conventions on biodiversity and desertification and the Kyoto Protocol can be exploited in order to promote LUC and land management practices that prevent land degradation, enhance carbon sequestration and enhance or conserve biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems. Measures promoting such objectives are expected to improve local food security and alleviate ruralpoverty.
FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have set out to develop and test a methodological framework of procedures for measuring, monitoring and accounting for carbon stocks in biomass and in soil, and for generating projections of carbon sequestration potential (CSP) resulting from LUCs. The framework aims to exploit the synergies between three major UN conventions, namely: climate change, biodiversity and desertification. The approach is to integrate procedures for developing LUC scenarios such that carbon sequestration, the prevention of land degradation and the conservation of biodiversity are optimized simultaneously. It is hoped that these actions will also result in added benefits such as increased crop yields, food security and rural income.
The methodological framework and the procedures described in chapters 1 to 8 were applied in the field in order to develop practical experience and knowledge of their suitability for application as standard procedures in routine assessments. Three areas in Latin America and the Caribbean region were selected to develop these case studies:
Texcoco River Watershed, Central Mexico (highland dry tropics),
Bacalar, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (lowland moist tropics),
Rio Cauto Watershed, Cuba (lowland dry tropics in the Caribbean).
The criteria used in selecting the sites encompassed the feasibility of implementation through contacts already made and the streamlining of logistics, as well as a broad sampling of ecological conditions.
In view of the large volume of data and information of the case studies, these have been provided as an appendix to this report and in digital form on a CD-ROM accompanying this report. Chapter 9 discusses the most significant aspects of the methodology and the results obtained from applying the framework to each area, as far as methodological development is concerned. Chapter 10 presents conclusions and recommendations from this study.
The CD-ROM also contains the report, a demo version of the Soil-C software, the full Soil-C software and the user manual.