Regenerative Grazing Ecological Monitoring

Overview

Abstract Loss of rainfall, deforestation, and soil degradation are key drivers of climate change, food insecurity, and biodiversity loss around the world.

We want to better understand and quantify the impact of simple interventions to restore soil carbon, native vegetation, and landscape health.

Starting on a 100-year old dry-farmed orchard, our comprehensive monitoring plan will test methods of management-intensive grazing, covercrops, and compost application.

Budget Having a baseline soil analysis data is critical to telling the full story. In a dryland restoration context, this means having this data prior to the start of the rainy season (as early as October 2016).

Knowing what we're starting with, in terms of soil and plant health, will help us discern the most cost-effective, time-efficient, and realistic solutions, using high-quality data for comparison to similar climatic and ecological regions.

An accurate topographical map of the 105-acre property will allow us to precisely document how changes occur across the landscape as implementation proceeds.

Using GIS and GPS mapping technology, we can document with highly accurate, sub-metre precision which plants are growing where, how native species are returning, and where restoration efforts are best concentrated.

Finally, by quantifying both plant and soil health, we can track and document the realities of broad-acre soil carbon sequestration in arid farmlands.

Research With annual rainfall of less than 5" in the last two years, southwestern California is the epicenter of a continued exceptional drought. Over 41 million people in this state alone are affected; yet around the world, many millions more are impacted by worsening drought and desertification each year.

Our techniques, including composts and intensive grazing management with livestock, have been developed and used successfully in dry regions of Africa, the Middle East, North American southwest, and Mediterranean. Documenting these methods with systematic, quantitative research will encourage, support and guide their use in other regions where there is a need for effective dryland restoration techniques.

Project Significance Few restoration efforts are quantified accurately right from the beginning. This greatly hinders our capacity to accurately evaluate and monitor their progress and real potential for applications.

By focusing on building the capacity of dry grassland soils to both sequester carbon and retain highly seasonal rainfall, our research will provide a clear framework to answer questions about the role of desert and highly arid ecosystems in sequestering global atmospheric carbon and mitigating climate change.

The answers to these questions apply to the 41% of the Earth's surface covered by dryland environments, and will support the growing number of regenerative agriculturists, dryland farmers and ranchers working to restore their ecological integrity.

Project Goals To answer the primary question of soil carbon sequestration in an arid grassland, we will focus on the effects of compost application and intensively managed livestock grazing.

We are starting with a comprehensive sampling plan at 3-month intervals (baseline Q0, Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4), with 10 samples each taken from points around the 100-acre property. Ideally we will have funding to develop three primary treatment systems: compost application alone; compost with livestock grazing; livestock grazing alone; and control (left as is).

Vegetation will be monitored in a 5 m radius around each soil sampling point. Additional transects to describe distinct vegetation communities around the property will document how changes over the course of the project.

Additional Info We are hoping to pursue additional questions using stable isotope tracking through soils, vegetation and livestock; parasite burdens and livestock health with blood, tissue and microbiome sampling; and field trainings for others interested in getting involved. If you're a researcher or a citizen interested in helping us reach these lofty goals, please contact us!

Protocols

Active Carbon Soil 1 & 2 g with prompt - Beta MultispeQ only

Takes a single measurement with spec for active soil carbon, permanganate solution, and prompts user for input weight of analyzed soil.

Soil Biological Activity 2 minutes - Soil chamber or Beta MultispeQ with CO2 sensor

Measures CO2 concentration in a closed chamber over time. Often used to measure soil biological activity in samples of soil or compost either in the field or in the lab. The parameter of interest is the slope of the initial rise in CO2 directly after closing the chamber. This protocol measures CO2 at 5 second intervals for ~2 minutes.

Leaf Photosynthesis MultispeQ V1.0

Summary

Measures many photosynthesis-related parameters in <15 seconds, including:

  • Chlorophll Fluorescence: Phi2, PhiNPQ, PhiNO, NPQt, qL, LEF
  • Relative Chlorophyll: SPAD
  • Proton Motive Force: ECSt, vH+, gH+
  • Absorbance at: 450, 535, 605, 650, 730, 850, 880, and 940nm.
  • Leaf Thickness (in mm), angle, and cardinal direct...

Questions

  1. Does this thing even work? (Short Answer)

Team

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