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Managing Grassland Diversity For Multiple Ecosystem Services - BD5003

Description
One of the major challenges facing agriculture is the need to develop farming systems that provide a range of ecosystem services, including (C) storage (to help offset rising atmospheric CO2) and the protection of water quality, along with biodiversity conservation and maintenance of economically viable production. Grasslands, which form the backbone of the UK livestock industry, are well suited to such multifunctional objectives because their sustainable management can yield substantial benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation, but also for other ecosystem services including carbon storage, soil nutrient retention, with has knock on effects to water quality, and pollination. This project tackes this issue using a multi-scale approach, involving studies at the field, plot and mesocosm scale, with the aim of improving our understanding of how grassland can be managed to deliver such multiple ecosystem services. Although we focus mainly on soil C sequestration, and specifically the potential for UK grasslands to be managed to increase both biodiversity and soil C storage, we also test whehter management for biodiversity also yields benefits for nutrient retention and pollination services.
Ultimately, we want to provide a scientific basis for the management of C storage in UK grassland, thereby providing policy relevant tools for managing soil C and offsetting C emissions, with potential benefits for other ecosystem services. The project has two specific objectives. First, we aim to determine, using a large-scale field survey, the distribution and temperature sensitivity of C pools of UK grassland soils, and establish how these measures of C storage vary with inherent soil conditions, vegetation diversity and composition, and management intensity. Second, we aim to test whether management aimed at enhancing botanical diversity, including the introduction of key species into swards (i.e. legumes and Rhinanthus minor), increases the sequestration of C in grassland soils and brings additional benefits for the delivery of other ecosystem services, including nutrient retention and pollination. This will be mainly tested using selected treatments of an existing long term diversity restoration experiment at Colt Park, Yorkshire Dales, and in a controlled mesocosm study
Objective
Objectives: The overall aim of this proposal is to assess the potential for UK grasslands to deliver multifunctional objectives of C sequestration, nutrient retention, pollination and biodiversity conservation, while maintaining economically viable levels of production. The main focus of the project is soil C sequestration, and specifically to assess the C storage potential of grasslands and the sensitivity of this C to management and climate change, and to experimentally test the potential to manage grassland vegetation diversity to optimise soil carbon storage.

However, an additional and complementary aim is to test how variations in vegetation diversity and composition in agricultural grasslands influences the provision of other ecosystem services, including nutrient (N and P) and pollination, thereby contributing the overall multi-functionality of grasslands systems. Ultimately, we aim to develop an improved mechanistic basis for management of C storage in UK grassland, thereby providing policy relevant tools for managing soil C and offsetting C emissions, with potential benefits for other ecosystem services.

Specific objectives:

Objective 1: To determine, using a large-scale field survey, the distribution and temperature sensitivity of C pools of UK grassland soils, and establish how these measures of C storage vary with inherent soil conditions, vegetation diversity and composition, and management intensity.

Objective 2: To test whether management aimed at enhancing botanical diversity, including the introduction of key species into swards (i.e. legumes and Rhinanthus minor), increases the sequestration of C in grassland soils and brings additional benefits for the delivery of other ecosystem services, including nutrient retention and pollination. This will be tested using selected treatments of an existing long term diversity restoration experiment (objective 2a) and a controlled mesocosm study (objective 2b).
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : BD5003 Final report, Aug 2016   (3945k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2015

Cost: £656,609
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Lancaster
Keywords
Biodiversity              
Environmental Protection              
Habitat conservation              
Nature conservation