• Open Access

Changes in carbon storage under alternative land uses in biodiverse Andean grasslands: implications for payment for ecosystem services


  • Editor Ashwini Chhatre

Kathleen A. Farley, Department of Geography, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182–4493, USA. Tel: 619–594-8472; Fax: 619–594-4938. E-mail: kfarley@mail.sdsu.edu


Ecuadorian páramo grasslands have become the focus of Payment for Ecosystem Services programs that have promoted land-use changes such as afforestation and reduction of burning, grazing of cattle or sheep, and agricultural expansion. However, limited information exists on the relationships between land use in páramos and the production of ecosystem services, including the direction and magnitude of changes in carbon storage. In an evaluation of eight sites representing incentivized land uses, we found significant differences in both soil carbon and aboveground carbon. The results support previous findings on the effects of pine plantations and suggest that limiting burning may be effective at enhancing carbon storage. They also indicate that, in highly productive grasslands such as the páramo, both belowground and aboveground C storage can be high, even when compared to some types of afforestation, providing support for greater attention to the role of grassland conservation in climate mitigation strategies.