’Ulu is one of the most climate-friendly, nutrient-dense foods you can put on your plate. that’s because of the unique carbon-storing nature of breadfruit agroforestry. Pacific peoples have practiced this form of land management techniques for millennia--practices which many today see as a ray of hope in the face of industrialized agriculture’s negative consequences, including climate change and soil degradation.
Above Ground and Below: How Breadfruit Trees Help Reverse Climate Change
A 2018 study published in Science found that a quarter of global carbon emissions come from the food sector and most of these emissions come from the modern farming model itself--not food distribution and transportation as one might think. Production of mass-consumed staples like rice, for instance, fill our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. The Environmental Defense Fund reports that rice grown in flooded conditions releases up to 12% of global methane emissions and, when grown in intermittently flooded conditions, also releases high levels of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas. ‘Ulu trees are different because they capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while also supporting soil carbon sequestration.
Above ground, an ‘ulu tree stores carbon in biomass like the bark, trunk, branches and fruit. Below ground, breadfruit’s deep root systems support a robust soil ecosystem where complex interactions between fungi, bacteria and microfauna sequester carbon into the soil.
Did you know that soil holds 80% of the total carbon in terrestrial ecosystems? That’s five times more than is stored in plants and animals combined! Mismanaged farming or poor farming practices deplete soil’s organic matter by disturbing the soil ecosystem through deforestation, tilling, and erosion.
As we continue to convert fallow lands and cropland to breadfruit agroforests, more carbon is held in the soil—and also in delicious, nutritious breadfruit!
Kritee, K. et al. (2018) “Global risk assessment of high nitrous oxide emissions from rice
production” Environmental Defense Fund, New York.
Ontl, T. A. & Schulte, L. A. (2012) Soil Carbon Storage. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):35
Ritchie, H., (2020). “You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local.” Our World In Data.