Does adaptive multi-paddock grazing increase stable soil carbon stocks in Alberta rangeland soils?


Source: RDAR

Grassland ecosystems have the potential to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil. This research project examines the ability of adaptive multi-paddock grazing systems to store more carbon than traditional grazing systems.

Outcomes from this research project will develop grazing best management practices to ensure ecosystem sustainability for Alberta ranchers and producers.

How will this research impact Alberta’s agriculture industry?

Grasslands cover approximately 10 M hectares of land in Alberta, providing ecosystem goods and services such as soil carbon (C) storage and the mediation of greenhouse gas fluxes.

Grazing management in these grasslands influences potential soil C storage and losses. Adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing systems have lead to increased soil C storage in some grasslands compared to alternative contemporary
grazing systems.

This research project will find out whether AMP grazing in Canadian grasslands provides similar benefits needs examination in order to support the development of policy and protocols that promote adoption of management change that increase C storage.

By understanding changes in the soil microbiome with soil C pools under different grazing management will allow the creation of grazing best management practices to ensure ecosystem sustainability and provide producers, farmers and ranchers with recommendations to decrease soil C losses.

Why did RDAR invest in this research project?

One of the largest criticisms of beef production is its contribution to atmospheric GHGs through enteric methane production
by cattle; demonstrated reductions in GHGs through land management practices could reduce the impact the beef industry has on the environment and increase the social license of beef producers to operate. In order to inform cattle producers of best grazing practices for their lands, project researchers will seek to understand the influence grazing has on soil microbial community dynamics relating to C cycling. The results of this research will be shared with policy makers to advise on potential carbon offset incentives to allow cattle producers to financially benefit from adoption of responsible grazing practices that increase soil C storage.

The ultimate goal of this research project is the development of a viable C offset protocol for grazing management that can be used by farmers and ranchers. Project researchers aim to create a catalog of comprehensive data that will compare adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing systems effects on carbon and green house gases in the Canadian grasslands. Project researchers aim to gain a deeper understanding of the biophysical response of ecosystem components, related to carbon storage, to changes in grazing management systems.

How will research knowledge be transferred and shared with producers?

The development of a C offset protocol for grazing management requires engagement with a number of stakeholder groups, and the project has two activities designed to meet this objective. There will be a Rancher Outreach and Stakeholder meetings to enable feedback from ranchers, as the protocol is being developed and incorporate rancher insight into
management practices.

Project results and objectives will be communicated through presentations to producers and scientists at extension events or scientific conferences. Project researchers anticipate at least 3 publications in scientific journals from the overall project.




Date Started
February 17, 2017

University of Alberta

Research Areas/Priorities

  • Enhanced productivity, profitability and competitiveness
  • Extension and Knowledge Transfer
  • Market demands: food safety, quality, value-added products and diversification
  • Sustainable and Responsible Agricultural Production

Industry/Agricultural Area

  • Grasslands
  • Soil

Principal Investigator

  • Dr. Cameron Carlyle


  • University of Alberta



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