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Stavi I.,Dead Sea and Arava Science Center
International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology | Year: 2013

This study reviews the potential use of biochar as soil amendment in afforestation, reforestation, agroforestry, fruit tree orchards, and bio-energy plantations. Implementing this practice could sequester large amounts of carbon (C) over the long-term, potentially offsetting anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, and mitigating climate change. On a global scale, this practice could sequester between 2 and 109.2 Pg biochar-C in 1.75 billion ha of degraded and deforested lands and agroforestry systems. An additional considerable amount could be sequestered in the soil of fruit tree orchards and bio-energy plantations. The anticipated improvement in the quality of the biochar-amended soils is expected to enhance resilience to these land uses, increasing their adaptation capacity to climate change. Yet, specific questions still need to be addressed, for example, the impact of biochar on the availability of nitrogen and potassium for plants in acidic soils and under humid conditions, as well as the impact of biochar on soil and trees in alkaline soils and under Mediterranean or drier conditions. Also, a full assessment of health hazards and environmental risks related to the production of biochar and its application in soil is required. Other questions relate to the environmental and economic costs of biochar application. Therefore, life cycle assessments and economic calculations should be conducted on a site-specific basis and include the practices of feedstock collection, transportation, processing, and spreading. International actions should regulate biochar practice as an eligible means for funding under the C finance mechanism. Specifically, payments should be provided to landowners for accomplishing ecosystem services. © 2013 Copyright Taylor & Francis.

Hadas G.,Dead Sea and Arava Science Center
Journal of Arid Environments | Year: 2012

At the Ein Gedi oasis, in the Judean Desert, abundant archaeological remains of agricultural irrigation systems are found that were fed only by spring water and used to irrigate the fields that were on the agricultural terraces. The systems date to the Roman-Byzantine period (1st-6th centuries CE) and attest to the existence of a settlement in the oasis at this time. This paper presents a description of the systems and crops grown, based on archaeological surveys and excavations together with a review of historical sources that describe the social mechanisms that enabled the systems to operate. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Stavi I.,Dead Sea and Arava Science Center | Lal R.,Ohio State University
Journal of Arid Environments | Year: 2015

Land degradation is extensive, covering approximately 23% of the globe's terrestrial area, increasing at an annual rate of 5-10 million ha, and affecting about 1.5 billion people globally. Such detrimental processes call for urgent and comprehensive action to halt land degradation. In this paper, we assess the causes and extent of land degradation around the world, followed by an outline of the various challenges in implementing a global Zero Net Land Degradation (ZNLD) policy. The concept of ZNLD proposes a scheme under which the extent of global degraded lands will decrease or at least, remain stable. To enable this type of scenario, the rate of global land degradation should not exceed that of land restoration. Restoration efforts should include not only croplands, rangelands, and woodlands, but also natural and semi-natural lands that do not generate direct economic revenues. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) envisages achieving this target by 2030. Despite being seemingly ambitious, the target of ZNLD could be achieved if degraded lands are restored to a considerable extent and, at the same time, land-degrading management practices are replaced with ones that conserve soils. To enable effective implementation of these steps, it is necessary to formulate a ZNLD Protocol aimed at managing assessment actions and maintaining of supportive policies and regulations. Restoration projects could be financed through payments for improving ecosystem services, as well as other economic mechanisms. Achieving the target of land degradation neutrality would decrease the environmental footprint of agriculture, while supporting food security and sustaining human wellbeing. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Stavi I.,Dead Sea and Arava Science Center | Lal R.,Ohio State University
Agronomy for Sustainable Development | Year: 2013

Increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases has led to global warming and associated climatic changes. The problem has been aggravated by the perception that the atmosphere is an infinite and toll-free resource. The well-known concept proposed by Garrett Hardin - "The Tragedy of the Commons" - highlights the misuse of common resources, which ultimately lead to their depletion. This article emphasizes the relevance of the same concept to the current climatic changes and highlights the impact of agriculture on the environment. The specific focus is on field crop production and livestock husbandry that have resulted in deteriorating environmental services and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the total amount of energy consumed by these sectors is enormous, encompassing 11 exajoules (EJ) annually. In addition, the article highlights possible impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity. Considering the foreseen growth of the global human population, it is expected that additional pressures will aggravate natural environments. Adoption of recommended management practices is crucial to reverse the environmental footprint of agriculture and lessen its impact on climate change. Regarding croplands, these practices can include reduced tillage systems, crop residue management, improved management of nutrients and pests, cover cropping, agroforestry, biochar application as soil amendment, and utilization of precision agriculture technologies. In the livestock sector, recommended management practices include changes in animals' diet and appropriate management of manure. Adoption of these practices is also expected to decrease the on-farm and off-farm energy use. To encourage the adoption of these practices, authorities should provide the farmers with incentives, such as payments for improving environmental services. Also, international regulations must be enforced to instigate a notable shift in human diets with the goal of reducing the environmental impact of food production. Judicious implementation of related policies would be crucial for promoting the required links between agricultural production and environmental sustainability. © 2012 INRA and Springer-Verlag, France.

Stavi I.,Dead Sea and Arava Science Center | Lal R.,Ohio State University
Agronomy for Sustainable Development | Year: 2013

Expansion of agricultural land use has increased emission of greenhouse gases, exacerbating climatic changes. Most agricultural soils have lost a large portion of their antecedent soil organic carbon storage, becoming a source of atmospheric carbon-dioxide. In addition, agricultural soils can also be a major source of nitrous oxide and methane. Adoption of conservation agricultural practices may mitigate some of the adverse impacts of landuse intensification. However, optimal implementation of these practices is not feasible under all physical and biotic conditions. Of a wide range of conservation practices, the most promising options include agroforestry systems and soil application of biochar, which can efficiently sequester large amounts of carbon over the long-run. In addition, these practices also increase agronomic productivity and support a range of ecosystem services. Payments to farmers and land managers for sequestrating carbon and improving ecosystem services is an important strategy for promoting the adoption of such practices, aimed at mitigating climate change while decreasing environmental footprint of agriculture and sustaining food security. © 2012 INRA and Springer-Verlag, France.

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