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Our Role in "Future Carbon Storage" - Vegetation Studies

Does reintroduction of large herbivores have negative effect on carbon storage? - Damages on tree layer through game browsing

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the onset  of  land-use  change  for  a  given  piece  of  land  can  be  clearly identified  via  analyses  of  historical  documents  and  satellite  imagery.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



Conceptual Draft

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).