TRU is currently collaborating with seven ranches in the BC Interior to collect vegetation and soil data from pastures under different management styles. Specifically, intensive management is being compared with the more traditional approach of extensive management.
The main focus of this research is climate change adaptation and mitigation. The ranching industry depends on healthy plant communities and soils to be productive and sustainable. The conditions of our future climate are not certain, though more frequent and severe weather events such as drought and flooding are predicted. Because of this, it’s important we develop strategies to improve the ability of ranchers to adapt in the face of a changing climate.
Soil carbon plays a very important role in the ability of soils to absorb and retain moisture, as well as storing (sequestering) carbon beneath the ground instead of the atmosphere (where it exists as CO2). In this research, soil carbon is quantified and compared between pastures grazed under intensive management (Management-intensive Grazing or ‘MiG’) and more extensive, or ‘conventional’ methods. This quantification of carbon can be used to inform land managers how carbon sequestration might be improved in ranchlands.
Climate Change Adaptation
Existing climate adaptation research suggests that improving plant diversity and healthy soil function can help reduce land degradation by erosion and in turn absorb and retain more moisture, which could be key to sustaining plant (and subsequently, livestock) productivity in times of drought. In this research, intensive management (MiG) is evaluated as a means of building greater adaptability via improvements in plant and soil health.
Climate Change Mitigation
Since carbon sequestration is a key climate change mitigation strategy, the implications of this research are potentially quite significant. The collective impact of altering land management practices to improve carbon sequestration may help combat global climate change by removing it from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.