Carbon is found in all living organisms and is the major building block for life on earth. In the environment, carbon exists in many forms – predominately as plant biomass, soil organic matter, geologic deposits, and as the gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and dissolved in seawater. Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in oceans, soils, vegetation (especially forests), and geologic formations. High levels of fossil fuel combustion and deforestation have transformed large pools of carbon from fossils (oil and coal deposits) and forests into atmospheric carbon dioxide. Although oceans store most of the earth’s carbon, soils contain approximately 75% of the carbon pool on land – three times more than the amount stored in living plants and animals. Soils therefore play a major role in maintaining a balanced global carbon cycle. Since most scientists believe that there is a direct relationship between increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and rising global temperatures, interest in soil carbon sequestration is attracting the attention of researchers, policy makers, farmers, and the general public.  In addition, since soil plays such an important role in sequestration, scientists are looking to using soil as an alternate source of energy.

In this lesson students will understand the ability of plants to sequester carbon above and below ground. Students will measure above ground biomass by harvesting small samples, and root growth using ingrown root-cores.Students will design an experiment to measure plant growth rates in the field and gather data to help determine the best crop choice for biofuel production.

Grade Level Range: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)