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Reforesting Marginal Cropland Could Provide Water Quality Credits

Reforesting cropland that has poor soil, inadequate water, or steep slopes can create quantifiable environmental benefits that could be tradable, according to a study by scientists at UC Santa Barbara. Marginal croplands replanted with trees can store carbon and reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments from land to streams and rivers, as well as increase biodiversity and produce revenue in the form of sustainably harvested timber. “Quantifying these effects can now be used to give tradable credits for improving water quality,” says lead author Arturo Keller. The study identified 10% of the cropland in the Ohio River Valley as high priority for reforestation.