Do grasslands act as a perpetual sink for carbon?
Article first published online: 8 MAY 2014
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Global Change Biology
Volume 20, Issue 9, pages 2708–2711, September 2014
How to Cite
Smith, P. (2014), Do grasslands act as a perpetual sink for carbon?. Global Change Biology, 20: 2708–2711. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12561
- Issue published online: 31 JUL 2014
- Article first published online: 8 MAY 2014
- Accepted manuscript online: 7 MAR 2014 01:57AM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 19 FEB 2014
- Manuscript Received: 8 DEC 2013
It is increasingly commonly suggested that grasslands are a perpetual sink for carbon, and that just maintaining grasslands will yield a net carbon sink. I examine the evidence for this from repeated soil surveys, long term grassland experiments and simple mass balance calculations. I conclude that it is untenable that grasslands act as a perpetual carbon sink, and the most likely explanation for observed grassland carbon sinks over short periods is legacy effects of land use and land management prior to the beginning of flux measurement periods. Simply having grassland does not result is a carbon sink, but judicious management or previously poorly managed grasslands can increase the sink capacity. Given that grasslands are a large store of carbon, and that it is easier and faster for soils to lose carbon that it is for them to gain carbon, it is an important management target to maintain these stocks.