Soil Carbon Sequestration in U.S. Rangelands

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Summary: 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 (that does not require infrastructure development) and adjusting stocking rates. Other, non-grazing related actions, include reseeding of grasslands and introduction of black carbon (biochar) into the soil.

Fynn, A.J., P. Alvarez, J.R. Brown, M.R. George, C. Kustin, E.A. Laca, J.T. Oldfield, T. Schorh, C.L. Neely, and C.P. Wong. 2009. Soil carbon sequestration in U.S. rangelands: Issues paper for protocol development. New York: Environmental Defense Fund.