No detectable broad-scale effect of livestock grazing on soil blue-carbon stock in salt marshes

Harvey, Rachel; Garbutt, Angus ORCID:; Hawkins, Stephen J.; Skov, Martin W.. 2019 No detectable broad-scale effect of livestock grazing on soil blue-carbon stock in salt marshes. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7, 151. 12, pp.

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Grassland carbon capturing and storage (CCS) is thought to benefit from regulation of grazing. The impact is likely to depend on livestock density. Yet, few studies have tested this principle or evaluated the consistency of grazer-carbon relationships across multiple sites. We sampled four intertidal zones across 22 salt marshes along a 650 km stretch of coast in the UK to examine the impact of livestock density on globally important saltmarsh “blue carbon” stocks. Although there were marked impacts of grazing pressure on above ground vegetation composition, structure and biomass, there was no detectable relationship between grazing intensity and soil organic carbon, irrespective of tidal zone in the marsh or soil depth-layer analyzed. A substantial spatial variation in soil carbon was instead explained by contextual environmental variables. There was evidence that compensatory responses by vegetation, such as increased root growth, countered carbon loss from grazing impacts. Our work suggests that grazing effects on carbon stocks are minimal on broader scales in comparison with the influence of environmental context. The benefits of grazing management to carbon stores are likely to be highly context dependent.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2296-701X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: blue carbon, grazing, saltmarsh, broad-scale, environmental context
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 13 May 2019 11:01 +0 (UTC)

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