The Potential Supply of Carbon-related Ecosystem Services from Land Management Choices in Alberta’s Agricultural Lands

Majid Iravani
Monica Kohler
Shannon White
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Despite the growth of market-based approaches to maintain carbon-related ecosystem services (ES) in agricultural lands, practical methods that account for shifting historical baseline and additionality under local environmental and management conditions remain unresolved. To address this data gap for Alberta’s 
agricultural lands, we developed spatially explicit organic carbon models for three dominant land-use types of rangeland, pastureland and cropland in an agricultural watershed to estimate the supply of organic carbon stock in soil (SOC) and aboveground plant biomass production (AGB) from a range of land management scenarios. Here we provide a summary of the modeling methods and results, with a focus on the impacts of land management scenarios related to grazing management, pasture vegetation improvement, and land conversion over a 10- and a 30-year simulation period.

The results showed a pronounced variation in the historic supply of SOC and AGB in the studied watershed. Overall, the implementation of different land management scenarios resulted in a diverse range of gain or loss in SOC and AGB across the watershed. The magnitude of gain or loss in SOC and AGB from the implemented
land management scenarios varied spatially depending on the land use type, land management history, length of the implementation period, and local variability in ecosystem responses to particular management practice. Therefore, cautious need to be considered in regards to proposing the examined land management scenarios as beneficial management practices across Alberta’s agricultural lands.

The information and knowledge developed provide a foundation to understand better market opportunities associated with conservation and restoration of the carbon-related ES in agricultural lands of the province. Serving as a starting place, stakeholders can build on this information to explore various land management
practices that potentially lead to long-term provision of carbon-related ES and resilient of socio-ecological systems in Alberta’s agricultural lands. The information and knowledge developed through this project will be integrated into a decision support tool that includes a wider range of ES and land management scenarios to develop credible and transparent market programs for protecting and enhancing multiple ES in Alberta’s agricultural landscapes.