Carbon Farming - Global Carbon Cycle


There is currently a lot of interest in carbon sequestration potential of pastures, forests, and rangelands, because of concerns about increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide driving  global climate change. Although forest projects have received more attention than pastures and rangelands, grazing lands can store considerable amounts of carbon. In some cases, they can store as much total carbon as forests do. This potential contribution to mitigating human contributions to greenhouse gases is often overlooked because grasslands store most of their carbon below ground, out of sight.

Selling Environmental Services - Trading Carbon Credits


Forest and rangelands are important providers of wood and livestock products to meet human needs. They also provide essential ecosystem services such as clean air and water, biotic habitat, and nutrient storage. Although these services are widely recognized as being important, it has been difficult for land owners to capture and sell benefits. The recent focus on CO2 as a potential contributor to the “greenhouse effect” that is believed to drive “global climate change” may present some opportunities to sell carbon credits from western rangelands and forest lands. These ecosystems have potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it as either woody biomass or as soil organic matter. This “sequestered” carbon may be saleable as offsets for carbon emitted by combustion processes such as burning fossil fuels. The current mechanisms for land owners to sell sequestered carbon is through the Chicago Carbon Exchange or to market them directly to consumers who want to reduce their “carbon footprint”.

Build Your Own Forage Disc Meter. 


Knowing pasture standing crop is really helpful for making management decisions, such as when to cut hay or when to move livestock. The most accurate way to estimate pasture yield is to clip and weigh small plots of known size. This is a lot of work! Some people rely on their visual estimates of yield. However, this requires experience and, hopefully, some training to do well. In many pasture situations, a forage disc meter can give fairly accurate, reliable, and objective estimates of forage yield. The a heavy disc is simply lifted to a standardized height and dropped. It's resting height above the ground is then read and compared to double sampled calibration plots that were read with the disc meter, then clipped to establish their actual yield. Plexiglass makes a dandy disc that is fairly tough, weather resistant, and heavy enough to work well in a variety of pasture types. So... why not build one yourself?

Rangeland Health Assessment.


Rangeland Health assessment emerged in the 1990’s as a logical assessment tool to partner with land management that emphasizes modern ecosystem concepts. It is does not replace previous assessment approaches, such as ecological condition based upon current vegetation relative to potential natural vegetation (Similarity Index). It is a broader, process based view of ecosystem function that provides a preliminary evaluation of soil stability, hydrologic function, and integrity of the biotic community, based upon the preponderance of evidence observed on a particular ecological site. It is an “expert system” that relies heavily upon the knowledge and judgment of the assessor in the field to properly interpret what is happening on site and what is normal (healthy) for that ecological site. Therefore, it can be fairly subjective. It is not meant to drive particular management actions. It has proved useful, however, to identify sites which are in need of assistance or which are at risk of degradation under current conditions, and provides a valuable tool for training people to observe and understand basic rangeland ecosystem processes.

About DoctorRange

Dr. Sharrow's pictureDr. Sharrow is Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Management at Oregon State University, USA, where he has taught undergraduate and graduate level natural resources classes for the past 31 years.

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