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Grazing cow – importance for Climate, ecosystem & sustainability

Grazing cow – importance for Climate, ecosystem & sustainability

Sequestering carbon has become a topic essential to the broader conversation about how our planet might survive the escalating effects of climate change. Livestock especially cows are frequently demonized as the enemy of this process.

Properly managed under the right confluence of conditions, cattle ie cows & buffalos ,sheep, goats etc can help mitigate degraded soils and restore healthy ecosystems, which helps lock carbon deep in the ground. About 40 percent of ice-free land on earth is considered grazing land, which sequesters about 30 percent of our planet’s carbon pool.

“The best way to address the carbon issue is to use animals in an ecological fashion,”

Every plant plays the vital function of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, via photosynthesis. Using sunlight’s energy, the plant fuses that carbon with hydrogen and oxygen to make carbohydrates, which it moves into the soil through its roots. (It also maintains some carbon in its own leaves and shoots and stems.) The roots feed the carbohydrates to dirt-bound fungi; in return, the fungi feed minerals back to the plant. As Mother Earth News describes it, “This invisible partnership…is the foundation of the terrestrial carbon cycle, as plants incorporate carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbohydrate biomass.”

The longer a plant’s roots, the deeper it can sequester carbon in the soil and the more efficiently it can hold it there. A healthy grassland, with a diversity of region-specific native grasses—on  grasslands, some of which have roots that extend four feet into the ground—can create deep carbon sinks. Managing grasslands well also contributes to carbon storage other ways: by building up soil health to make land more resilient to extreme events, according to Marcia DeLonge, senior scientist in the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. This, she says, “can protect existing soil carbon to some degree, but perhaps more importantly may allow continued carbon sequestration. In other words, even when events like extreme heat, drought, fire, and floods don’t significantly affect soil carbon immediately, they could affect the plants above ground that contribute to soil carbon in the longer term.”

Trees generally capture and store more carbon than grasses and shrubs. Size, density and longevity all factor into this ability; tropical staple crop trees are especially good at it. And tropical forests sequester half our terrestrial carbon—about 470 billion tons worth.

Planting native trees and shrubs, building on traditional systems is exactly what silvopasture is, and it increases soil biodiversity and the carbon-storing potential of animal husbandry. Eric Toensmeier, who researches Project Drawdown’s food-supply land use, calls it “a powerful tool…that is not being taken seriously.”

How powerful? Project Drawdown estimates that silvopasture can sequester almost two tons of carbon per acre per year, making it one of the most effective carbon-storing tools in agriculture. This power is already recognized in countries like Brazil, Australia, and Mexico, where governments give farmers financial incentives to transition to silvopasture systems. 

It’s time India takes a cue and revives it’s traditional system to achieve big carbon sequestrations and take a big step towards mitigation of climate changes and lead to a sustainable farming system.

(Source- Jstor Daily)