Russia’s carbon sink

Land formerly used for agriculture now traps millions of tons of carbon

Farmland abandoned in Russia following the collapse of the USSR is now likely the largest man-made carbon sink in the world, a study finds.

Research published in the journal Global Change Biology highlighted the enormous climate benefits of vegetation growing on about 110 million acres of land previously used for agriculture, according to The overgrowth has sucked up about 50 million tons of carbon—equivalent to 10 percent of Russia’s fossil-fuel carbon emissions—each year since 1990. The study’s authors projected that, provided the land remains uncultivated, a further 261 million tons of carbon will be sequestered over the next 30 years.

At that point, the land would reach equilibrium, where the same amount of carbon would escape into the atmosphere as is being absorbed.