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19th October 2022 (7 Topics)

Grazing animals key to long-term soil carbon stability


  • Recently, a study conducted by Indian researchers, revealed that grazing animals hold the key to long-term soil carbon stability in the Grazing Ecosystem, especially in Himalayas and Dry-arid regions.

    What has been found in the report?

    • Grazing animals stabilize carbon: Large mammalian herbivores (Yak and Ibex) play a crucial role in stabilizing the pool of soil carbon in grazing ecosystems (such as the Spiti region in the Himalayas).
    • Removal can lead to negative impact: With experimental removing these grazing organisms/animals from the ecosystem has shown negative consequences on the carbon cycle in the region.
    • Gradual loss: Grazing ecosystems store vast amounts of soil carbon (soil-C), and are experiencing a gradual loss of large mammalian herbivores that can affect ecosystem functions and services.
    Carbon in Soil: Soil carbon (C) is recognized as the largest store of terrestrial carbon Globally, its storage capacity is much larger compared with the pools of carbon in the atmosphere and vegetation.  When plants and animals die, the dead organic matter remains in the soil for a long duration before microbes break it down and release carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

    Required measures

    • As the soil contains more carbon than all plants and the atmosphere combined, it is important to ensure its persistence.
    • As grazing ecosystems make up about 40% of the Earth’s land surface, protecting the herbivores that keep the soil carbon stable should remain a key priority for mitigating climate change.

How soil carbon sustainability is dependent on Grazing animals?

  • A key factor underlying fluctuations in soil carbon levels is due to nitrogen.
  • Depending on the soil conditions, nitrogen can either stabilize or destabilize the carbon pool.
  • Grazing by herbivores, however, changes their interactions in ways that tip the balance in favor of the former.

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