Baseline carbon monitoring for rangeland carbon sequestration

Dr. John Gamon | Professor, Cross-appointed
Departments of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and Biological Sciences Faculty of Science
University of Alberta

Using a combination of atmospheric measurements, plot sampling, and remote sensing techniques, Dr. Gamon and his graduate students monitored carbon fluxes and stocks at the Mattheis Research Ranch, in order to establish baseline measurements of ecosystem carbon uptake for representative locations throughout the property. According to this research, Mattheis Ranch grasslands appear to be net carbon sinks (with some areas taking up more carbon than others, likely because of inherent differences in soil type, hydrology, plant community types, and biodiversity). Importantly, optical remote sensing of canopy greenness did a good job of tracking carbon uptake patterns that were measured directly by flux towers and biomass harvests, showing that remote sensing can be used to monitor rangeland carbon uptake. Over the long term, the results of this research can inform management practices to enhance carbon sequestration. A successful demonstration of effective and reliable carbon storage for rangelands is a first step towards developing financial incentives (e.g. carbon credits) for good rangeland management. A program of carbon credits could provide financial benefits for ranchers while providing other benefits.

In 2012, Dr. Gamon and colleagues collected airborne imagery of the Mattheis Ranch to aid with mapping of vegetation carbon uptake patterns. The imagery is available to view here.