Investigating the effect of livestock grazing on carbon and nutrient dynamics in Alberta Rangelands

Project Facts

Payment Mechanisms / Support

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Emissions Reduction Alberta

North America
Canada, Alberta, Multiple locations in Alberta

Dr. Cameron Carlyle, University of Alberta, [email protected]

Case overview/description

Main Challenges
Ecosystem health, Managing the commons
Starting point/ Challenges

The risk of drought is expected to increase as a result of climate change in the Canadian prairies. At the same time, carbon offset policies may enable land managers to be rewared for beneficial management practices that reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Purpose/ Objectives addressed, Results expected

1)To understand how the direct and indirect effects of livestock grazing (e.g. plant community change) influences the quantities, stability, distribution and cycling of carbon,

(2)To measure the effect of livestock grazing and associated changes in plant communities on leaf litter decomposition and biogeochemical cycling in litter and soil,

(3) To measure the dynamics of key GHGs in response to livestock grazing in northern temperate grasslands.

Type of Case
Agroecological zone
Exploring potentials / Specific Payments

Knowing the impacts of different grazing systems on carbon storage and provision of biodiversity could potentially be used in determing payments for ecosystem services


This work has potential implications for management in any mixed grass prairie ecosystem.

Land ownership
Mixed private/collective
Ownership comments

Work is happening primarily on Crown/public land with results being applicable on privately held lands

Livestock system
Livestock Type
Comment livestock systems

Frequency and intensity of grazing is being manipulated in a small plot experiment to simulate different grazing systems

Operating environment

free market

Participants in the case/project

Public land managers in the Special Areas Municipality

Methods / Approaches applied to reach objectives

Small exclusion research plots and simulating different grazing management and imposing drought treatments

Outcome/ Beneficiaries/ Issues

Sustainability regarding economic issues

Mananaging for increased ecological services may provide additional income streams.  Increased productivity supports additional grazing livestock and/or increases productivity of individual grazing animals

Sustainability regarding social issues

Sustaining the ranching community. Landscape able to support more people.

Sustainability regarding ecological issues

Providing information to improve management for a healthy functioning ecosystem

Knowledge Exchange

Through extension services, workshops, academic papers

Key Conflicts / Problems

classic challenge of getting usable information into hands of grazers. Increasing grain and oil seed demand increases pressure on land conversion from grass. Difficult to maintain funding for long-term research

Lessons learnt

too soon to know


Rangeland health, grasslands, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, roots, Canada, Alberta