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Tag: Drawdown

Whole-System Approach Managing Grazing to Restore Soil Health and Farm Livelihoods

This paper is a literature review on the ecological impacts of grazing, and finds that where managed properly (employing a “whole-systems approach” and “adaptive, goal-directed grazing methods”) livestock are essential to ecosystem service sustainability and improvement. Soil organic matter increases were sufficient to yield a net sink of 2 tons of carbon per hectare per year.

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Review of Evidence on Drylands Pastoral Systems and Climate Change: Implications and Opportunities for Mitigation and Adaptation

This report highlights the importance of drylands, grazing lands and livestock-based livelihoods and illustrates their relationship with climate and with climate mitigation through the adoption of methodologies to restore soil. The editors write “There is a great potential for carbon sequestration in drylands because of their large extent and because substantial historic carbon losses mean that drylands soils are now far from saturation (FAO/LEAD, 2006). Lal (2004) estimates that soil carbon sequestration in the dryland ecosystems could achieve about 1 billion tonnes C per year but reaching this will require a vigorous and coordinated effort at a global scale.” It should be noted that more recent studies suggest that the drawdown potential might be higher.

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Soil Carbon Sequestration in U.S. Rangelands

This Environmental Defense Fund issues paper from 2009 recognized the magnitude of rangelands as a global ecosystem (up to half the land surface area of the planet) and of rangeland soils as a carbon sink suitable to mitigate global warming through proper management actions (“protocols”). It states that on the 761 million acres of rangelands in the United States, 198 million tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) – or 3.3% of US fossil fuel emissions – could be sequestered into newly formed soil each year for 30 years. Several actions for soil improvement on rangelands are presented, the number one of which is “Conversion of abandoned and degraded cropland to grassland.” Some other recommended actions include avoiding conversion of rangeland to croplands in the first place, extensive grazing management and adjusting stocking rates.

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Soil Carbon Sequestration in Grazing Lands: Societal Benefits and Policy Implications

This paper from 2010 is a compilation of previous studies on grazing lands and carbon drawdown which themselves date from the 1990s. It shows that grazing lands/rangelands are major stores of terrestrial carbon, occupying approximately 3.6 billion hectares and accounting for about one-fourth of potential carbon (C) sequestration in world soils. Drawdown rates via grazing and on restored semi-arid savanna are reported to be as high as 2.75 tons per hectare per year.

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Global Warming and Pasture-Raised Beef Production in the United States

This report evaluates the prospects for changing management practices to reduce the climate impact of the time beef cattle spend on pasture or rangeland. Improved practices are most readily applied to the finishing stage of fully pasture-raised systems—a growing alternative to CAFOs, given research showing that pasture finishing has nutritional and environmental benefits. In the long term, the use of climate-friendly best practices in the United States may lead to substantial cuts in global warming emissions if adopted in countries where beef production accounts for a greater share of those emissions.

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The Potential of Restorative Grazing to Mitigate Global Warming by Increasing Carbon Capture on Grasslands

This white paper reviews the literature on soil organic carbon losses and potential gains through regenerative management. It finds that most literature is limited to areas considered in “agriculture” and that rangelands may be largely under represented both in terms of of losses and drawdown potential. It argues that with regenerative rangeland practices, such as Holistic Planned Grazing, the total capture of atmospheric carbon may be much higher than previously considered. An upward estimate of 88 to 210 gigatons (billions of tons) of carbon (88-210 GtC) representing a total drawdown of 25 to 60 tons per hectare on 3500 million hectares of grasslands worldwide is postulated as achievable through proper rangeland/grassland management.

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GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plains

This paper demonstrates that enteric emissions (methane) from cows are not a climate impediment when the animals are managed in a way that builds soil, thus, capturing carbon. Specifically, using a life cycle assessment that weighs emissions against sequestration, it calculates a net drawdown of approximately 2 tons of carbon per hectare per year (0.8 tons per acre per year) after a conversion from heavy continuous to multi-paddock grazing.

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Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter

This paper studies three farms converted from cropland to management intensive grazing (note: this is not the same as Holistic Management, but we include this paper to show the positive effects of converting croplands back to pasture). “Farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95% and 34%, respectively. Thus, within a decade of management-intensive grazing practices soil C levels returned to those of native forest soils, and likely decreased fertilizer and irrigation demands.”

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