Cattle, conservation, and carbon in the western Great Plains

TitleCattle, conservation, and carbon in the western Great Plains
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsSanderson JS, Beutler C, Brown JR, Burke I, Chapman T, Conant RT, Derner JD, Easter M, Fuhlendorf SD, Grissom G, Herrick JE, Liptzin D, Morgan JA, Murph R, Pague C, Rang I
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Date PublishedDecember 2019
ARIS Log Number348258
Keywordscarbon, cattle, conservation, western Great Plains

Rangelands have garnered attention for their potential to store carbon (C) and have been included in France’s 4 per 1,000 initiative (Minasny et al. 2017), methods for maintaining or increasing C in grassland soils (American Carbon Registry 2013; Verified Carbon Standard 2017), and portfolios of natural climate solutions (Griscom et al. 2017; Fargione et al. 2018). Rangelands are used to graze livestock, and they provide habitat for species, C storage, and other environmental benefits. Rangelands cover nearly half the world’s terrestrial surface and store up to 20% of the global soil organic C (Conant 2012). However, rangelands are being converted to other land uses such as cropland (Lark et al. 2015), housing, industry, transportation, and energy production. Approximately 600,000 ha (1.48 × 106 ac) of US rangelands were converted to other uses between 2007 and 2012, and another 360,000 ha (0.89 × 106 ac) between 2012 and 2015 (USDA 2018). Despite the increasing attention being given to soil C, some reports urging soil C management do not mention avoiding conversion (Lal 2019). We suggest that avoiding the loss of rangelands should be given more attention than it currently receives because it offers a well-established approach to retaining soil C along with the other ecosystems services that rangelands provide.