Webinar - Grassland Carbon and Livestock Grazing: An Undervalued Ecosystem Service?

Edward Bork
Resource Date:

Grasslands represent a major ecosystem in Alberta, and play a key role in supporting livestock grazing on both private and public land. Despite this, the current revenue streams provided by grasslands are limited to forage production and associated livestock, with no ability to generate income from alternative ecosystem services. In this overview I review the critical role of grasslands in providing the ecosystem service of carbon (C) storage, as well as the potential beneficial role of livestock grazing in enhancing C stocks. Various mechanisms are discussed for why, where and how grazing may enhance grassland C, including changes in plant diversity, species composition, and root:shoot C dynamics. Finally, I review the potential role of specialized grazing systems, including adaptive, multi-paddock rotational grazing, in altering grassland function, including forage production, water infiltration, soil microbial properties, and ultimately soil C storage. Collectively, this information helps lay an empirical foundation for how grasslands, including those subject to livestock grazing, may enhance the important ecosystem service of C storage.