Can the Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing System Increase Carbon Sequestration in Alberta's Grassland Soils?

  • Sarah Breitkreuz WISEST student researcher, University of Alberta
  • Laio Silva Sobrinho Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Alberta
  • Leah Stachniak WISEST student researcher, University of Alberta
  • Scott Chang Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Alberta
Keywords: adaptive management, adaptive multi paddock, carbon sequestration, soil organic carbon, Canadian grasslands, soil carbon, grasslands, grazing

Abstract

Natural grasslands cover around 40% of the Earth’s surface and play an important role as a source of ecological goods and services. By sequestering around 30% of terrestrial global carbon, grasslands play a critical part in the alleviation of climate change. Despite their ecological significance, grasslands have been reduced to a fraction of their original extent. In Canada, up to 70% of grasslands have been destroyed, making it the most endangered ecosystem in North America. What remains is often intensely grazed and a diverse ecosystem of wild animals is replaced by domestic livestock. The continuous application of poor grazing management by ranchers is one of the main causes for the depletion of natural grasslands, resulting in the release of stored soil carbon back into the atmosphere. Fortunately, 60-70% of the depleted carbon can be re-sequestered through the adoption of improved grazing management, thus improving grassland ecosystems. The Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing system is an example of improved grazing management. AMP grazing is a system in which livestock is frequently rotated between multiple fenced paddocks. Compared to conventional grazing practices (Non-AMP), the AMP system is a favorable solution which can improve carbon sequestration in world wide grasslands soils– and in turn, contribute to the mitigation of climate change. By regenerating grassland ecosystems, AMP grazing could potentially aid in creating a more sustainable, resilient agroecosystem. Our goal is to study the effect of AMP grazing on soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration in Canadian grasslands. First, we collected soil cores from 30 study sites located throughout the grassland ecoregions in Canada. Each site consisted of a pair of ranches: one AMP and one Non-AMP. Second, we analyzed the soil cores for total carbon using an elemental analyzer. There does not seem to be any substantial difference in total carbon between AMP and Non-AMP systems, however we have yet to differentiate between soil organic carbon and soil inorganic carbon. Once we distinguish the two variables we will be able to confirm the effectiveness of the AMP grazing system in increasing carbon sequestration in Canadian grasslands.

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Published
2019-09-11