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A8. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Subsidence of Organic Soils

Program for Engineering, Agriculture, Environment, Planning, Hydrology, Science and other students

One of the general goals of Intelligentsia International is to propose an alternative, sustainable sugarcane farming system for the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). This system should aim to provide multiple benefits, to balance various economic, social and ecological needs. More accurately, the system should address water storage, water flow, water quality, biodiversity, soil subsidence, carbon emissions, and biofuel production.


Muck soils in EAA contain a specific quantity of carbon. Certain amount of carbon is lost to the atmosphere during the current farming processes. It is a newly proposed farming system capable of storing more water than the currently used farming systems and can that way be reduced soil subsidence (oxidation) and thus reduced carbon emissions? This is a complex issue, because for example sugarcane grown on muck soil captures CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, but the current process of draining muck soils also allows soil subsidence or oxidation to occur, thus releasing CO2 back to the atmosphere. Muck soil subsidence can be reduced by flooding the soils and growing alternative varieties or crops, but this change too has negative greenhouse effect implications (e.g. in case rice rice is substituted for sugarcane, then methane can be generated in the soil and is released to the atmosphere). Thus, the interrelationships between sources and sinks of soil subsidence and greenhouse gases in a farming system need to be examined and theirs investigation is a main objective of this practical program.

List of main tasks:

  • Study the background of Everglades restoration programs;
  • Document relationships between water storage, crop choices, soils subsidence and greenhouse gases effects in traditional farming system in EAA;
  • Summarize current and planned new approaches to address EAA's issues in reports and websites;
  • Consider the EAA issues in complex environmental and economic manner and suggest additional EAA's alternate farming systems;
  • Develop a set of arguments to support your approach;
  • Investigate land use implications of biofuels under different scenarios;
  • Quantify and document advantages and disadvantages of the newly proposed farming system relative to food production, nutrient management, soil subsidence, energy efficiency and habitat protection;
  • Summarize all your findings in comprehensive reports.

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