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Chelsea Carey, PhD


Working Lands Research Director & Principal Soil Ecologist

Suggested citation: Foster, E.J. and Carey, C.J. 2021. A scoping paper for developing rangeland carbon monitoring protocols. Point Blue Conservation Science, Petaluma, CA.

A scoping paper for developing rangeland carbon monitoring protocols


This report is written for technical experts and practitioners to help design a robust and accessible protocol for carbon measurements on rangelands in California and beyond. With carbon farm plans, healthy soils incentives, and growing interest in regenerative management covering vast areas of rangeland, a great need and opportunity exists to assess and monitor changes on the ground. Rangelands are social-ecological systems that are predominantly managed for livestock production, encompass a globally significant proportion of land area, and are increasingly valued for their role in the terrestrial carbon cycle. In partnership with collaborators at Colorado State University and Mad Agriculture, Point Blue Conservation Science aims to create a robust monitoring framework to measure carbon above and belowground in response to commonly recommended rangeland management practices. This monitoring framework will include a handbook of protocols for use by ranchers, technical service providers, and other managers to aid in land stewardship evaluation and other on-site needs. The protocols will be designed to create an aggregated database for addressing scientific questions about the rate and magnitude of carbon change in response to rangeland stewardship.

The document includes a broad overview of the rangeland carbon monitoring goals, important sampling design aspects, core indicators and methods for monitoring aboveground and belowground carbon, and considerations of common rangeland conservation practices. This report does not include detailed protocol steps, exhaustive summaries, a systematic review of all existing rangeland protocols, nor prioritization of which practices or sites sequester more carbon; this information is not for direct implementation by ranchers or other practitioners. We provide background information for protocol development to monitor aboveground and belowground carbon in support of rangeland stewardship.

What’s Inside?

  • An Introduction that includes context on rangeland extent, significance, and management; the role of science and monitoring; perspective on monitoring rangeland carbon and forming objectives
  • Background on carbon monitoring design
  • Information on indicators and methods
  • Specific considerations for practices such as prescribed grazing, range planting, riparian restoration, etc.
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