Posts that are commercial, self-promotional, obscene, rude, or disruptive will be removed. Grassland conversion in Iowa was concentrated on less suitable land, likely reflecting a relative lack of higher quality land available for growing more corn and soybeans. A replicated study from 1992 to 1994 in the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area, Sussex, UK (Wakeham-Dawson 1995) found that foraging brown hares Lepus europaeus generally avoided farms and areas of farms that had been converted from arable crops to Environmentally Sensitive Area grasslands. The conversion of grasslands also compromises the ecological services provided by the Great Plains, the WWF report notes, such as the filtering of trillions of gallons of water that goes on to be used as drinking water for millions of people and helps support healthy fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. 100, NO. One policy initiative intended to help protect grasslands is the “Sodsaver Provision,” an addition to the 2014 Farm Bill. Ask a Scientist: What Must the Biden Administration Do to Protect Federal Science? Will you join us? As you point out in your article, when crops other than grasses are grown, blue water is often required. During 1997-2007, grassland-cropland conversion varied by grassland type and region. In 2013, Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist and former rancher, delivered a TED Talk in which he argued that in order to reverse the process of degraded grasslands turning into desert, we must look to the thing we think caused the problem in the first place: livestock. So, although policies have tried to help protect grasslands and strengthen agricultural resilience to climate change, there is a lot more work to be done. What’s the Role of Hydrogen in the Clean Energy Transition? Grassland over use and land conversion into grasslands are driven by the demand for forage production since Desert Dreams: Can the Middle Eastern Country of Qatar Learn to Feed Itself? Yet many view ethanol production as a much-needed shot in the arm for workers outside coastal urban centers. Study: As forests, grasslands gave way to farms, soil carbon emissions soared BY MARK FOSS The conversion of pasture to agricultural land has released more carbon from the soil in several South American grasslands in the past 40 years than the conversion of forests to grassland during the three centuries before, according to a new report. The order for the report was couched in the 2008 Farm Bill. Fertilizers, pesticides, silt, and soil wash from the converted grasslands into creeks, polluting the Mississippi River system with a witches’ brew that helps create a bacteria-infested, algae-clogged, anaerobic “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Grassland soil is rich, and almost anything can be grown there. Across the lower 48 states, the areas where grasslands are being lost are the same ones where flood frequency has increased the most, and soil moisture is predicted to decline the most. Start by Protecting the Scientists, 7 Common Excuses People Use to Avoid Wearing Masks, and Why Science Says They’re Wrong. All rights reserved. Be the positive change that nature desires and convert your lawn to a wildflower meadow, starting today! As corn and soybeans became more valuable, farmers plowed more land—and disturbed native grasslands along the way, American farmers, as the recent Super Bowl ad showed, are just simple, hard-working folk, scratching a living from the land. That is what’s the most effective use of the land where “green” water or rain falls. So often annual crops with small water footprint numbers have the most adverse environmental impact because they require the most blue water use. Unfortunately, funding for such programs has fallen flat over the last many number of years. More land means more crops. Just a couple things to add on methane and water. (In 2013 the … The Washington Post recently published a comprehensive piece on this trend, noting that the confluence of biofuel expansion, improved crop genetics, a longer growing season (due to climate change), as well as the oil boom in North Dakota, contributed to a precipitous decline of grasslands. This is especially true in California where most of the United States produce is grown. But as the study goes onto state, turning grassland to cropland can have negative consequences for the larger environment: For instance, it’s bad … Add in the fact that funding has been declining for the government’s Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to protect wildlife by keeping land uncultivated. That blue water is ground water pumped from aquifers and or diverted from river/lakes. There are much better uses for the money. The conversion of grassland into production cropland or other land development can rapidly decrease soil carbon stocks as a result of soil disturbance and removal of permanent vegetation. In these two studies from India-, -Singh, Jay Shankar 2011. In recent decades, residential and commercial development has decimated America’s agricultural lands. Study Shows False Memories Afflict Us All. [1] Nationwide, 24 million acres of farmland were lost between 1982 and 2012; Pennsylvania saw 706,000 acres eliminated in that timespan. Earlier this year, USDA released its “Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry” framework, which includes grasslands protection principles such as conservation of sensitive lands and grazing lands. You might be thinking: Shouldn’t we be protecting grasslands if they provide so many climate benefits? 1, 10 January 2011 29 UCS respects your privacy and will not display, lend, or sell your email address for any reason. When grasslands are tilled for farming half of the carbon stored in the soil is list in the atmosphere.grasslands do the opposite they pull carbon from the atmosphere.avoiding the conversion would prevent 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.that equates to the emissions from 7.4 million passenger vehicles a year. Why Messing With Your Body Clock May Make You Sick, Remember That? Except for the hard-working part, don’t believe it. Overgrazing by livestock and plowing are the two greatest threats to temperate grasslands. [2] California Congressman Jared Huffman introduced the Healthy Soils and Rangelands Solution Act, which would establish a competitive grant program for activities that store carbon in the soil, including management of grazing lands. The plants provided food and nourishment for animals and the animals, in turn, stimulated growth in the plants, fertilized and distributed seed over the soil. © 2020 TIME USA, LLC. These three US Department of Agriculture maps, which trace irrigated crops, line up oh-so well with those that are replacing grasslands. Both of those issues almost defeat the purpose of the provision. 98% of water represented in a water footprint number for beef is amount of water to grow the feed, forage or grasses that a head of cattle eats over its lifetime (rather than water directly consumed- which is approx. Regarding methane, people also forget that once soil is tilled, left expose and or treated with nitrogen inputs, the soil microbial activity and especially the methanotrophic activity is greatly reduced. We now know clearly how to avoid such a scenario by focusing on protecting sensitive and important regions like grasslands. When industrial critiques are made of extensive systems to promote intensive ones, these critiques do not account for any mitigation of GHG’s from either carbon sequestration or methane oxidation. People like to banter around statements like it takes 2000 gallons to make a pound of beef without any understanding of what those numbers mean. Tags: food policy, grasslands, maladaptation, perennials, Planning Failures: The Costly Risks of Ignoring Climate Change, sustainable agriculture. Poor agricultural practicescan ruin soil and strip grasslands of life. We use grasslands for many purposes—from raising livestock to providing recreational space to protecting wildlife. A quarter of Earth was once covered by grasslands, but much of these have now been turned into farms. Allen isn’t the only who sees great potential in integrating animals back to the land. The world may need to feed some 9 billion people by mid-century, which could mean doubling food production from current levels. Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture. Ruminants, especially cattle (particularly beef cattle), have gotten a bad rap for their effects on climate, water, land and health. Eric Mousel, an Extension Range Livestock Specialist with South Dakota State University, calls this a “paramount concern.” Mousel points out that the millions of tons of topsoil lost to erosion from marginal farm ground are irreplaceable. Tyler Lark and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin tracked land and planting patterns dating back to the 1970s across the lower 48 states, using U.S. Department of Agriculture data. All could benefit from increased funding. There are many other programs funded by the Farm Bill that seek to optimize agricultural land management—including grasslands—for climate benefit. It is also alarming because the crops that are replacing grasslands require more water. Our nation’s remaining grasslands are largely concentrated in the Great Plains and Intermontane West regions, and are actually disappearing at an alarming rate. (MORE: Whole Food Blues: Why Organic Agriculture May Not Be So Sustainable). The conversion of forests into cropland worldwide has triggered an atmospheric change to emissions of biogenic volatile organic compounds that -- while seldom considered in climate models -- … As for water, your article points out the absurdity of using global water footprint averages that don’t take into account appropriate land use. A grassland environment in the Nebraska Sand Hills. To help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion, please focus comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand, and refrain from personal attacks. Photo: Aaron Price. Internal Emails Show Discord as Interior Department Moves to Gut Migratory Birds Rule, President-Elect Biden Must Prioritize Coal Communities—and Here’s How, La temporada de huracanes de 2020 bate récords en EE.UU. Source: National Climate Assessment, Map 9. Furthermore grazing per this study- Grazing affects methanotroph activity and diversity in an alpine meadow soil: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237823417_Grazing_affects_methanotroph_activity_and_diversity_in_an_alpine_meadow_soil – also seems to increase methanotrophic activity. GM’s Environmental About-Face – Political Expedience or Real Leadership? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world. Methanotrophs: the potential biological sink to mitigate the global methane load. He can try to squeeze more crop out of the land he’s already farming, which is something American farmers have been pretty good at. What do we mean by the term grassland agriculture? If a farmer wants to increase the amount of grain they produce, he really only has a couple of options. Plants planted in large monocultures the obvious answer is yes, but much... This possible cultivated cropland was from—you guessed it—grasslands global methane load States almost... 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