Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Aerial view Dutch agricultural landscape with wind turbines along coast by iStock/kruwt

Sustainable Agriculture & Forestry

Sustainable agriculture and forest management share a common goal—to balance the economic and cultural needs of humans with protecting the environment.

The Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability is exploring how to reduce the negative environmental impacts of agriculture while maintaining production sufficient to feed the world’s growing population through two areas of research: agricultural greenhouse gas management and nitrogen management.

Over the course of several years, the Technical Working Group on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (T-AGG), led by the Nicholas Institute, synthesized relevant science on how agricultural management could reduce greenhouse gas emissions or enhance carbon sequestration to inform everything from agricultural policy to the design of agricultural carbon offsets protocols.

Building from the T-AGG synthesis, our research on nitrogen management in agriculture provides an updated and more robust analysis of how agricultural management practices can reduce harmful nitrogen losses to the air and water.

On the forestry side, the Nicholas Institute has worked on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) to develop policies and financial support for improved forest management and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Other projects have focused on what opportunities U.S. forests and farms might provide for reducing emissions and how U.S. policies and programs can encourage that. 

The Nicholas Institute has also been working with partner organizations and stakeholders to discover new ways to engage large, private forest owners in conservation efforts. Their cooperation increases opportunities for achieving conservation benefits at significant scale.


Technical Working Group on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (T-AGG)

T-AGG aims to generate momentum for the inclusion of agriculture as a climate change mitigation option in the United States and abroad. The T-AGG initiative includes engagement of stakeholders, decision makers, and expert assessment of high-quality mitigation research.

Nitrogen Management in Agriculture

The Nicholas Institute’s research focuses on two primary loss pathways. First, nitrate is lost through runoff and leaching that can result in eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) of freshwater systems and estuaries, resulting in problems such as coastal dead zones and massive algal blooms. Second, gaseous emissions from farms include nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas with 298 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)

REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

Engaging Large Private Forest Owners in All-Lands Conservation

Successful landscape-scale forest conservation and management efforts must engage a wide variety of forestland owners. Owners of large areas of forestland (more than 10,000 acres) have a particularly important role to play in the achievement of landscape-scale goals.