Changes such as replanting one or more different plant species, or sealing off portions of grassland, can boost soil carbon content, Wilkes noted. However, he continued, such measures need to spread globally to more than 120 million farmers who work grazing lands, including savannah and shrubland.
Rangelands hold up to 30% of the world’s soil carbon and span more than five billion hectares — about 40% of its landmass, Wilkes and a colleague, Timm Tennigkeit, wrote in their recent report. Improved management of grazing lands has the potential to lock away between 1.3 billion and two billion tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent worldwide up to 2030, they say.
In some areas, Wilkes told Reuters, “there are too many animals, so you simply reduce their number. If the soil has already begun to degrade, then maybe planting grasses is the best option.”
Wilkes said it was critical that agriculture and sustainable land management be included in the next phase of the United Nations climate-change negotiations, expected to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.
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