Permaculture - quantified?

Discussion in 'Environmental and Health Professionals Interested' started by Emma-Lou, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. Emma-Lou

    Emma-Lou New Member

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    Hi there,

    Just wondering if anyone can help me at all please?

    I'm studying towards my Environemntal Sciences BSc in the UK, and for my final year research project I'm looking into whether certain permaculture techniques actually increase carbon sequestration over standard agricultural techniques; in particular the depth at which carbon is able to be sequestered.

    Although I firmly believe that this happens, I have to find published papers that quantify and discuss it in order to meet scientific and university standards, so does anyone know of any actual research papers that have been publicised about this kind of thing at all? Or any quantifiable permaculture studdies at all.

    Here's hoping!
    Love and light
    Emma
     
  2. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Emma

    Welcome to the PRI Forum.

    In my experience, you are going to find it very hard to find (peer-reviewed) literature quantifying '...whether certain permaculture techniques actually increase carbon sequestration over standard agricultural techniques; in particular the depth at which carbon is able to be sequestered'.

    I imagine you have probably already tried many different types of search formats (choice of search terms) in databases available to you. I just tried 'permaculture carbon sequestration' in a couple of our larger meta-databases and the result was zero.

    I therefore suggest (and you may have already tried this) that you 'play around' with the search terms until you hit upon something that starts to provide positive responses. Terms such as 'alternative agriculture' in place of 'permaculture' might expand the response list.

    Ultimately it will be you that has to define exactly what you mean by 'certain permaculture techniques', and expand on your thesis from there. For example, if you read P.A Yeomans' The Keyline Plan (1954), you will find a 'permaculture technique' that is widely practiced today, but at the time of its inception one that was simply defined by the author as 'a system of progressive fertile soil development ... [of which the] primary aim is the development of better soil structure, increased soil fertility and greater actual depth of fertile soil' (p. 13). No mention of 'permaculture' or 'carbon sequestration'. However, both it (Keyline ploughing) is and does, and does very well.

    Good luck with your further research, and please let us know how it goes.

    Cheerio, Markos.
     
  3. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Yeah, I think personally that 'permaculture techniques' is a bit of a misnomer. To me permaculture is more about the integration of various techniques that could be also labelled under 'alternative' or 'organic' or any other label. I think it's the ethics and the principles that define permaculture. Many of the techniques labelled as belonging to permaculture were around long before permaculture started to claim them.

    Science is a very compartmentalist approach to describing the world, which means you are going to be hard pressed to find scientific papers about a holistic systems approach.

    Good luck
     
  4. chook-in-eire

    chook-in-eire Junior Member

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    Emma, since there is a lot of overlap between agroforestry and some techniques that tend to be utilized in permaculture systems (e.g. forest gardens, contour hedgerows, use of N-fixing tree and shrub species, and generally going 'into the third plane') I'd take a look at
    * Agroforestry for Soil Management, Edited by A Young, 1997
    * Temperate Agroforestry Systems, Edited by A M Gordon, S M Newman, 1997
    I have read both and they are excellent scientific publications.
    Also there are:
    * Agroforestry Abstracts, A fully searchable abstracts database of internationally published research on agroforestry. ww.agroforestry.ac.uk

    And for more recent work the journal Agroforestry Systems http://www.springerlink.com/content/102842/?MUD=MP ,
    Environmental Services of Agroforestry Systems http://www.amazon.com/Environmental-Services-Agroforestry-Sustainable-Forestry/dp/1560221305

    Also go to cabi.org and type Agroforestry into the search box.
    Also, separately, type "carbon sequestration" into the search box. What jumps out at me is
    * Grassland Productivity and Ecosystem Services, Edited by A Chabbi, J Hodgson, G Lemaire, October 2011
    Again, larger-scale permaculture systems with livestock integration tend to employ a number of techniques aimed at improving grassland productivity. There is your link to "ecosystem services", one of which is carbon sequestration.
    * Forests at the Land–Atmosphere Interface, Edited by J Grace, K McNaughton, M Mencuccini, J Moncrieff, December 2003 (covers topics such as stomatal functioning, large scale processes, radiation modelling, forest meteorology and carbon sequestration)

    HTH
     
  5. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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  6. Lumbuck Thornton

    Lumbuck Thornton Junior Member

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    Hi Emma,

    Just a couple of observations on this that might interest you.

    Generally if you are just comparing the growing of plants then there might not be that much difference but it is important to take in the wider picture.
    Where has the seed come from? - Some GM warehouse or last seasons crop?
    Where has the fertiliser come from? - Overseas and petroleum added or collected from animals, mulch crops and fallen leaves?
    Where has the energy associated with the farming technique come from? - Hydrocarbons or muscle?
    How far does the food have to travel before consumption? Vast distances or Zone 2 to Zone 1 or at the most a local Farmers Market.
    What is the nutritional benefit of the food - weight for weight? Is it mostly water and flavourless?
    What toxic residues, GM and other issues are there to consider?
    What is the mindset of the consumer likely to be? - One with the planet and a sustainable society in mind or dollars and more environmental destruction in mind?

    I reckon you might be trying to compare two very different things here and there is more to the carbon equation than just what is left in the soil!

    Good question and good luck answering it !

    Regards

    Lumbuck
     
  7. chook-in-eire

    chook-in-eire Junior Member

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    Just another thought: if you watch "Greening the Desert - the Sequel" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gPvsl9ni-4&feature=related you can see how in the swales what was basically dry dust has turned into relatively humus-rich soil. Perhaps you could ask PRI if anyone has published on this.
     
  8. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    http://web.stanford.edu/group/ssecg/cgi-bin/drupal/sites/default/files/MN%20Final%20Report%206-6.pdf

    http://energy.gov/fe/science-innovation/carbon-capture-and-storage-research

    These are two sites that may prove useful to you.
    Next year I will be starting a five year experiment series specifically designed to show how permaculture practices can be used in the agricultural world to sequester carbon that is not in the form of CO2. Most of the studies published at this time are geared to that one form of Carbon, are mostly focused around coal production or the "fracking" for natural gas industry.

    Good luck in your endeavor.
     
  9. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    In the agricultural sense carbon sequestering is multi faceted.
    This can be best explained by example; a forest burns, this act releases CO, CO2 and H2O into the atmosphere. A tree or series of trees fall in the forest, become attacked by rotting fungi, bacteria, get covered by leaves and deteriorate into forest floor humus thus retaining most all of the carbon the tree/trees contained while alive.

    In Permaculture we strive to grow what foods we need within a natural environment, leaving out the "modern agriculture methods" (as much as possible) such as heavy tillage.
    We, at the same time, create microspheres very similar to what Nature creates over a longer period of time, hugelkulture beds are a great example of this methodology as are swales, berms, and multi plantings in a symbiotic horticulture, all plants in a given area are beneficial to each other.

    We are fairly trying to be Mother Natures Helpers (fairies, gnomes and sprites, only we are full sized).

    We look at an area that washes out when it rains and then we go in and determine if changing that area will affect the surrounding horticulture or other natural mechanics in a negative way.
    Or we find an area that is arid and in desperate need of moisture to be productive. Next we study the "Lay of the Lands" to determine the best path to follow.

    When it is found re-structuring will not affect the natural flow of nature, then we make the changes so the land will become more productive and useful to our needs.

    We think in layers of plants, instead of mowing everything down to kill what nature put there so we can plant what we want to grow in that space.

    We plant with the idea of "there are no "weeds", only non-desirable or less than desirable plants, the plants we wish to leave the area are encouraged to do so by planting competitor plants that take away; 1)water, 2)sunlight, 3)nutrients from the undesired plants. We might also put down a sheet mulch, or plant a heavy cover crop, or simply "chop and drop" to accomplish the same end.

    We then add in other plants (just like on the forest floor, where you never find just one type or species of plant) that will complement those already growing. This makes every plant healthy and productive without disrupting (too much) the "Natural Order of Things". Orchards are a wonderful way to have multi storied plantings; trees at the penthouse level, tall cereal grains and/or vines and/or berry bushes and/or corn(Maize) at the next lower level, beans, peas, squashes, at the next lower level then cover plants such as strawberries, creepers or low growing legumes or other nitrogen fixers at ground level.

    When looking for ways to contain carbon so it doesn't go into thin air, composting, mulching, burying are all good methods, bio-char making does release some carbon into the atmosphere but what is left is quite a lot and that we put into the ground, after we have given it a through soaking in a solution that will help micro organisms get a foot hold and so make the carbon, other nutrients and minerals contained in the bio-char available to the plants growing in the area.

    When you are searching for published scientific papers, keeping all these things in mind, will help you create more productive searches on the internet, which is sometimes but not always faster than using the Library.

    Again, good luck with your endeavor.
     
  10. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Might I also suggest contact Heenan Doherty, he is doing a lot of "Regarian" work and may have the #'s and data you are looking for.
     
  11. StarrB.

    StarrB. New Member

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    I am currently conducting research through the University of Alberta, Canada, trying to do exactly that, quantify the output of local permaculture systems and compare that output to conventional agriculture in the region. In my research I have found no formal peer-reviewed articles about the output, environmental restoration, or carbon sequestration of "permaculture" sites specifically, however there are many peer reviewed articles that look at specific practices (inter-cropping vs. monocrops, compost vs. synthetic fertilizers, etc) impacts on output, water, carbon, environment etc. You can find those articles pretty easily by searching your University's academic journal databases, and following the string of related articles. The main issue with many permaculture sites is that they cannot be directly compared to conventional agriculture because there is no way to control for all of the variables that permaculture sites tend to have. the basic challenge of defining a permaculture sites also complicates the issue.

    If you're looking for more of a social analysis of permaculture check out this articles:
    Permaculture for agroecology: design, movement, practice, and worldview. A review
    Agron. Sustain. Dev. (2014) 34:251–274
    Rafter Sass Ferguson & Sarah Taylor Lovell

    If anyone is willing to help out with my research, I am looking for alternative agriculture sites in Alberta and Western Canada to fill out this survey. I would appreciate it greatly if you could share this survey with permaculture practitioners in your networks, so I can try to get as complete as possible an overview of what's going on in my area, before I move on to the next steps in my research. Here's the link again: http://goo.gl/forms/JVyPESDQtL

    Thanks!
     

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