Soil carbon sequestration in the korangadu

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RESEARCH ON MANAGERIAL, BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS AFFECTING SOIL CARBON SEQUESTRATION IN THE  KORANGADU GRASSLAND SOILS

  • Rathnavel Pandian T
  • Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE, Bengaluru)
  • Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation, Kuttapalayam
  • Funded by World Wildlife Fund, India

United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has forewarned the possibility of a 1.5° Celsius increase in temperature within 2030 which could lead to devastating changes in climate.

This is mainly due to the increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere.

To reduce the risk of Climate Change, there are two ways future CO2 levels in the atmosphere could be reduced:

  1. By reducing carbon emissions from human activities.
  2. By increasing the storage of carbon in forests, oceans and in grasslands.

Various factors determine if grasslands store (carbon sink) or release (carbon source) carbon from their soils over the course of time. This rate of change of carbon in grassland soils depends on managerial, biological and environmental factors. A scientific review by R.Lal (Lal, 2004) states that tropical grasslands and Savannahs all over the world store about 110-117 tons of carbon in their soil per hectare. However, most of these tropical grasslands are commonly owned and managed. Korangadu grasslands, on the other hand, are privately owned, fenced with live fencing of Commiphora berryi (Mullu kiluvai), practicing silvi-pastoralism with hardy Acacia trees (Acacia leucophloea – velamaram in Tamizh) and their cattle stocking density managed to prevent overgrazing. These characteristics distinguish the Korangadu grasslands from other commonly grazed grasslands. Therefore, with the increasing threat of climate change and increasing CO2 levels, it becomes important to study the carbon holding capacity and carbon sequestration capacity of Korangadu grasslands, and how they differ from commonly grazed grasslands. Identifying the major factors that affect carbon storage will enable better management of the grasslands for optimum soil carbon sequestration without sacrificing the sustainable economic cycle of the grassland, which has been established for more than 150 years.

Some of the factors studied of their relevance to soil carbon sequestration in this project are – grass and tree diversity; dung beetles’ diversity, biomass and abundance; soil moisture; soil Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium values (soil NPK); number and type of cattle stocked in the paddock, and the type of fencing of the paddock.

Aims of the study

  1. Determine carbon holding capacity of the Korangadu soils
  2. Determine the rate of carbon storage in the Korangadu soils.
  3. What biological, managerial and environmental factors affect the carbon storage in the Korangadu soils?

How the study will be conducted?

  1. Soil sampling using standardized procedure; soil analysis will be done at Government Soil Testing Laboratory, Tiruppur.
  2. Soil sampling at 3 time periods – November/December, January/February, and March/April.
  3. Results of the study would be shared with the owners of Korangadu and published in a scientific journal

Sampling for the project will ideally be concluded by April 2019, and a preliminary report of the project developed by July 2019.

About the researcher:

Rathnavel Pandian T has a Bachelors in Biotechnology from Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering (SVCE), Chennai, and a Masters in Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour from University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA. He joined as a project intern at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE, Bengaluru) in December 2016, working on a project on soil arthropods in the tea landscape of Darjeeling. Currently, for this project on the carbon sequestration in the Korangadu grasslands, he is affiliated as a researcher with ATREE, with the guidance of Dr Soubadra Devy. This project is funded by World Wildlife Fund – India (WWF – India)

(Vivekanandan, 2007)

References:

  1. Lal, R. (2004). Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change. Geoderma, 123(1–2), 1–
  2. Vivekanandan, P. (2007). Korangadu: A traditional pastureland farming system in the drylands of Tamil Nadu, South India. SEVA Foundation: Madurai, India.