Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center has released a new report, Climate Benefits of Chesapeake Bay Restoration in Virginia.
The report examines how efforts to improve water quality in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have also provided a secondary benefit of helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
“We wanted to understand better how efforts implemented under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement to improve water quality in Virginia could also generate significant climate mitigation benefits by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in vegetation or soil,” said Chesapeake Conservancy Vice President of Technology Susan Minnemeyer. “The results showed meaningful co-benefits for climate change leaders to consider when scaling conservation and restoration practices throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. This is proof that restoration projects that aim to improve water quality are also powerful tools to fight climate change.”
“This estimate corroborates findings in a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality evaluation conducted in 2020 which also included analysis of Virginia’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), also known as the WIP,” said Chesapeake Bay Program Manager James Martin. “Our estimates suggest that the water quality actions in Virginia’s WIP, when fully implemented, could produce more than two million tons of climate mitigation co-benefits while also improving soil health and the resilience of Virginia farms to climate change.”
“Based on our analysis for 2019, we estimate that 459,639 tons (416,987 metric tons) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year are removed from the atmosphere by agricultural conservation practices,” said Chesapeake Conservancy Senior GIS Analyst Emily Wiggans. “This amount equates to the annual carbon sequestration of 510,000 acres of average U.S. forests or approximately 0.4% of Virginia’s energy-related CO2 emissions.”
Results of this study indicate that a large opportunity exists for accelerating climate action within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The 460,000 tons of annual carbon removal benefits generated by ongoing restoration activities within the agricultural sector in Virginia represent a small portion of the potential mitigation that could be generated with targeted planning and additional investment in the practices that promise the greatest co-benefits for water quality improvement and climate mitigation.
The Chesapeake Bay Program provides a robust management framework and technical expertise for scaling land-based climate solutions.