Our Role in "Future Carbon Storage" - Vegetation Studies
Within our study site in Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), the onset of land-use change for a given piece of land can be clearly identified via analyses of historical documents and satellite imagery. Taking advantage of this unique setting, soil and vegetation science will use a common study design and harmonize methodologies. Different ages of sites will offer a chronosequence for reconstructing temporal effects on ecosystem properties (see Figure 1A).
The main goals for our vegetation studies:
A) Identify carbon stocks in plant biomass
B) Determine ecological drivers of biomass gains & losses
C) Assess plants' carbon input into the soil
D) Explore biodiversity effects on carbon storage and other ecosystem services
Hence, our sampling design allows projecting carbon gains and losses in relation to other ecosystem properties for a given pathway of land-use change. Together with other projects working in KAZA, this approach enables us to compare the “future of possibilities” for conservation and intensification with the “future of probabilities”. For the pathway of restoration, we will establish a coupled field experiment on rangeland and soil restoration to directly assess changes in carbon storage and other ecosystem services over a 12-year period.
PhD Thesis Project
Figure 1: Conceptual draft of the study design. For the conservation and intensification pathway (A), we will use chronosequences by contrasting sites where conservation or intensification has been initiated in similar phases. Trophic rewilding is studied in national parks along a grazing gradient by large herbivores. The restoration pathway (B) will be studied with a coupled field experiment, where organic carbon from a bush-encroached rangeland will be used to amend soils of cropped fields with biochar and/or manure. Circles along the slim arrows indicate observation years either along chronosequences (A) or in the restoration experiment (B).