Conclusion: The recent call for improved management of grazing systems as part of an international climate change mitigation strategy is critical, particularly in light of many existing beef LCAs [life cycle assessments] that have concluded that beef cattle produced in grazing systems are a particularly large sources of GHG emissions. To identify the best opportunities to reduce GHG emissions from beef production, a systems approach that considers the potential to increase soil C and reduce ecosystem-level GHG emissions is essential. Using a combination of on-farm collected data, literature values, and IPCC Tier 1 methodology, we generated an LCA that indicates highly-managed grass-ﬁnished beef systems in the Upper Midwestern United States can mitigate GHG emissions through SCS while contributing to food provisioning at stocking rates as high as 2.5 AU ha-1. From this data, we conclude that well-managed grazing and grass-ﬁnishing systems in environmentally appropriate settings can positively contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of beef cattle, while lowering overall atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
once the benefits of regenerative ranching can be fully quantified – through soil carbon measurements, forage density, and more [working with Point Blue and others]– it could become a mainstay of both ranching and soil management.
Holistic or planned grazing can lead to to increased forage production, soil fertility, resistance to drought, water retention, and sequestration of carbon into the soil..
TomKat Ranch is betting that the rise of precision agriculture and big data technologies could help prove the financial viability of regenerative ranching, as well as the environmental benefits/
Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming that aims to restore the fertility of the soil and the overall health of the land it’s conducted on….consistent with sustainable agriculture practices, … limiting the use of synthetic inputs like pesticides and fertilizers and limiting tillage of the soil, which can negatively impact soil health. Often, regenerative agriculture involves livestock.
This might seem confusing if you’ve read the countless headlines that livestock farming is the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions – according to the FAO it accounts for 18% of emissions – but there is a school of thought that’s gathering momentum and evidence that managing livestock in certain ways not only can reduce the negative impact of livestock farming on the environment but also can actually regenerate the land and have a positive impact….’
Through what’s called holistic planned grazing, or rotational grazing, ranchers strategically move their cattle around the land so that no one area is too depleted, yet every inch of rangeland is trimmed and fertilized by the cows.
These methods can lead to increased forage production, soil fertility, resistance to drought, water retention, and the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere into the soil, among other benefits.
TomKat Ranch, a proponent of regenerative ranching, is betting that the rise of precision agriculture and big data technologies could help prove the financial viability of regenerative ranching, as well as the environmental benefits. The idea of adding only what is absolutely necessary to an agricultural process is a fundamental principle behind precision farming, and TomKat is working to apply these principles to cattle grazing.
Kevin Watt, land and livestock manager at TomKat Ranch in California, thinks that once the benefits of regenerative ranching can be fully quantified – through soil carbon measurements, forage density, and more – it could become a mainstay of both ranching and soil management.
“When you’re doing something that is regenerative, you’re basically saying that your productive asset should not be losing value. Your productive asset should be gaining value, and that appeals to everybody,” Watt told AgFunderNews….We caught up with Watt at the Forbes Agtech Summit in Salinas, California, to find out what kind of technology he’ll need to make his case and what challenges are standing in the way…
…”We have onsite conservation scientists from Point Blue Conservation Science doing very meticulous technician-driven soil tests, vegetation surveys, and wildlife surveys that we can compare to our very rigorous management records and see what strategies grow us more grass, which ones grow us more beef, which ones keep our streams running longer.For every 1% of soil organic matter change or growth, we get an extra 25,000 gallons of water per acre being stored.That’s a USDA figure so people know about this.
We’ve learned that if you can get that feedback from your landscape, whether or not you share a philosophical interest in environmentalism or humane treatment of animals, you start to see that it really makes sense to evolve with your landscape; to see what the ROI is on every one of your management choices. That’s why precision ranching could be so transformative…”
Drought-caused tree deaths are produced by a combination of hydraulic failure [cannot transport water from the roots to the leaves] and carbon starvation [closing pores in response to drought], shows new research. The finding, based on a meta-analysis by 62 scientists from across the world, will improve predictive models of how trees die in response to heat, drought, and other climate stresses...
…As the number of hot droughts increases globally, scientists are looking to make more consistent predictions of what will happen to plants and vegetation in the future.
This matters for models used to predict climate change because plants take up a big portion of the carbon dioxide humans pump in the atmosphere. Therefore, the effect of tree death and die-off, as observed globally in recent decades, could affect the rate at which climate changes.
…Trees respond to the stress of drought by closing those pores that let in carbon dioxide. At that point, they need to rely on their stored sugars and starches to stay alive, and could die from carbon starvation if they run out before the drought is over.
On the other hand, if the tree loses too much water too quickly, an air bubble (embolism) will form and the tree has hydraulic failure, it cannot transport water from the roots to the leaves, which becomes lethal as the whole tree dries out…
Adams et al. A multi-species synthesis of physiological mechanisms in drought-induced tree mortality. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0248-x
Data-Driven Water Management
It takes science and partnership to figure out the best way to manage limited supplies of fresh water in California’s Central Valley for humans and wildlife. A recent paper co-authored by Point Blue scientists shows a worrisome mismatch in flooded habitat and shorebird spring migration. This has important implications for how government agencies and NGO partners manage water on refuges and in agricultural fields.
Coming soon, thanks to further funding from NASA, we’ll be analyzing more satellite data with our newly hired Quantitative Ecologist, Dr. Erin Conlisk. Our goal is to figure out when and where to put water to achieve the greatest benefit for wetland-dependent wildlife while also recharging groundwater and providing recreational opportunities. Stay tuned for results!
Meadows & Climate Change
Our science is helping to determine if restored Sierra meadows can store enough carbon to help slow climate change while also benefitting birds and other wildlife. The outcome could help direct more funds from California’s cap-and-trade program toward meadow restoration, and it looks promising! Read this wonderful Audubon article highlighting Point Blue’s collaborative work.
Climate Science Education: New Tools!
Today’s young people need climate science knowledge to help build a better future for themselves and the next generations. That’s why we’ve created and disseminated a climate-smart riparian restoration curriculum, which you can find here. We’ve also added a number of our science resources to the Bay Area Climate Literacy and Impact Collaborative database for Bay Area educators here. We invite you to use these resources and share them with others. Together we are educating and inspiring the next wave of climate-smart conservation leaders!
A complaint was filed after Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator said on CNBC that carbon dioxide isn’t a main cause of global warming….
…In a letter about this notion sent to Pruitt on Monday, leaders of 16 scientific societies cautioned that “the integrity of the scientific process cannot thrive when policymakers—regardless of party affiliation—use policy disagreements as a pretext to challenge scientific conclusions.”
Franson’s work [with Point Blue] is one of eight studies on carbon storage in Sierra Nevada meadows, all of which are part of California’s pioneering cap-and-trade legislationto reduce carbon emissions.
California’s cap-and-trade extension, passed by lawmakers this week, ensures continued study of whether Sierra Nevada meadow restoration can capture carbon pollution and help birds at once.
Kelly Franson sat cross-legged in a wet meadow glistening with dew….she fixed her gaze on a clump of willows 10 yards away…a Song Sparrow nest she found days earlier by parting willow branches with a stick… one of dozens of nests built by six meadow species that Franson will monitor through the end of July. She’s documenting how many chicks hatch, how many fledge, and what the birds do as they flit around the 290-acre Childs Meadow, which sits at 5,000 feet in the still-snowy mountains of northeastern California. She knows that the details she records—each bird’s flight to Gurnsey Creek behind her, each flight back with a beetle in its beak—stand for so much more.
“These birds are indicators of what’s going on in the habitat,” Franson, a research intern with the nonprofit Point Blue Conservation Science, says. “Water, climate—it’s all connected.”....
Franson’s work is one of eight studies on carbon storage in Sierra Nevada meadows, all of which are part of California’s pioneering cap-and-trade legislationto reduce carbon emissions. Combined, the meadow studies are estimated to cost $5.9 million to restore 30,000 acres by 2030—a drop in the bucket compared to the $3.4 billion the California Air Resources Board has invested to date to reduce the state’s carbon emissions.
The research is led by the Sierra Meadows Partnership, a group of some two-dozen government, university, and non-profit partners that together are investigating how restoring Sierra Nevada meadows might affect California’s water supply, biodiversity, and potential to store the greenhouse gases that are changing Earth’s climate. If meadows prove able to capture and store carbon underground, then the fees companies pay to offset their own pollution through cap-and-trade would go to their restoration….
…The Sierra Meadows Partnership should help these species, even though its primary goal relates to climate change. Scientists know soils store three times more carbon than vegetation and the atmosphere combined. It’s stored in plants’ deep root systems, and in the accumulation of their dead tissue over time. But changes to the landscape have limited or reversed centuries of carbon storage. Degraded meadows store less carbon, and warmer temperatures from climate change may release carbon back into the atmosphere.
The Sierra Meadows Partnership is focused on identifying how much carbon meadows are storing, how much they are losing, and whether restoration makes a difference. The group has identified 16 meadows ranging in elevation from 3,045 to nearly 8,700 feet; half are being restored, while the others will serve as control sites that allow scientists to measure the effects of restoration….
…A 2014 study, published by Point Blue Conservation Science, found that restored meadows in the northern Sierra Nevada have the potential to support up to 10 times more breeding bird species and individuals than degraded sites. And preliminary results from a study of meadows restored between 2001 and 2016 found 20 percent more soil carbon, on average, in restored meadows compared to degraded ones….
Key organizations in the Sierra Meadows Partnership:
A new study suggests that paying people to conserve their trees could be a highly cost-effective way to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions and should be a key part of the global strategy to fight climate change. The study sought to evaluate how effective ‘Payments for Ecosystems’ (PES) is at reducing deforestation.
…the study applies the method of field experiments, or randomized controlled trials, to the question of how effective PES is. The study design helped the researchers accurately measure the averted deforestation caused by the program…
…The findings highlight the advantages of focusing on developing countries when working to reduce global carbon emissions. While the benefit of conserving a tree is the same regardless of the location, paying individuals to conserve forests in developing countries like Uganda is less expensive, making it cheaper to reduce overall emissions…
Seema Jayachandran, Joost de Laat, Eric F. Lambin, Charlotte Y. Stanton, Robin Audy, Nancy E. Thomas. Cash for carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestation. Science, 2017; 357 (6348): 267 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan0568
The warmer Arctic has triggered cooler winters and springs in North America, which has in turn weakened vegetation growth and lowered carbon uptake capacity in its ecosystems, research shows.
The team analyzed an index of sea surface temperatures from the Bering Sea and found that in years with higher than average Arctic temperatures, changes in atmospheric circulation resulted in the aforementioned anomalous climates throughout North America. In those years of intense cold and low precipitation, the team found that the unfavorable conditions adversely affected vegetation growth — including crop yields — which in turn decreased carbon uptake capacity by about 14%. In other words, although Arctic warming has increased carbon uptake in the Northern Hemisphere, this research has shown that the resulting interannual variability in Arctic temperatures can affect regions further away in North America and may counteract the initially observed increases in carbon uptake…
Jin-Soo Kim, Jong-Seong Kug, Su-Jong Jeong, Deborah N. Huntzinger, Anna M. Michalak, Christopher R. Schwalm, Yaxing Wei, Kevin Schaefer. Reduced North American terrestrial primary productivity linked to anomalous Arctic warming. Nature Geoscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2986
A newly certified carbon trading protocol could help solve a number of problems in the West’s largest estuary, including flood risk, water pollution, habitat loss and threats to a critical freshwater supply.
…The largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, the Delta is a network of some 70 islands protected by more than 1,000 miles of levees. The soil on these islands is some of the richest farmland in the world because it is composed of organic material: decaying plants that accumulated over millennia.
But when the levees were built 150 years ago to create farms, this dried out the soil, causing it to oxidize and decompose. As a result, the surface of many islands has slowly sunk below sea level. This results in a stronger leverage force on the levees, making them more vulnerable to failure. That’s a problem because the Delta is also the source of freshwater for 25 million Californians and more than 3 million acres of farmland. If numerous islands flooded due to levee failures, seawater could rush into the estuary and compromise the freshwater supply…
Campbell Ingram: For every inch of elevation that you don’t lose in a given year due to ongoing agricultural practices, you’re not increasing hydrologic pressure on the levee. And for every inch that you then accrete in elevation, you’re reducing that pressure. It’s a slow process, but it’s at least moving in the right direction.
A wetland compared to a monoculture of corn is typically going to have higher biodiversity, more use by waterfowl and amphibians and giant garter snakes. You can have some water quality benefits. And obviously the greenhouse gas emissions reduction and subsidence reversal….
…The Air Resources Board recently put out their latest scoping plan, and in that they describe a target of 15,000 to 30,000 acres of managed wetlands in the Delta in the next 13 years. This is one of the best uses of the western Delta because of its importance to the water supply….
California Governor Jerry Brown said on Thursday he will discuss merging carbon trading markets in his state and China when he travels to Asia later this week, a sign of the governor’s ambition to influence global climate change policy.
Brown discussed his plans in a telephone interview after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, a global agreement to fight climate change. The move fulfilled a major Trump campaign pledge, but drew condemnation from U.S. allies and business leaders.
Brown, who vigorously opposes the United States’ withdrawal from the pact, lambasted Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord as “insane.”
He has been working with states and provinces around the world to set voluntary agreements to address global warming. The governor heads to China on Friday for meetings focused on climate change.
California has the largest carbon trading system in the United States and has frequently hosted officials from China, which has launched seven pilot regional trading schemes.
China also plans to roll out a nationwide market later this year, but the launch faces possible delays amid unreliable data and other regulatory problems, according to a government researcher.
California’s system, which is known as “cap and trade,” is already linked to Canada’s Quebec market….