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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Student Essay

Grazing Livestock to Increase Soil Carbon and Nitrogen


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 43 No. 1, p. 5-7
    Received: Jan 20, 2014
    Published: February 28, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): nblapointe@gmail.com
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  1. Nick Butler-Lapointe *ab
  1. a c/o Ray Weil, Dep. of Environmental Science and Technology, J.J. Patterson Hall, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
    b 4261 Lilac Lane, Ellicott City, MD 21042


Pasture is a common land use and can potentially sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon while simultaneously producing food. Increased soil carbon and nitrogen levels improve the productivity of pasture land as well as removing carbon from the atmosphere, reducing this driver of global warming. Grazing animals at an appropriate stocking density increases soil carbon and nitrogen levels through a number of pathways including the defoliation of plants by grazing, the physical effects of trampling plant matter, and animal waste. These effects are tied to plant physiological responses and to soil microbes responsible for nutrient cycling. Understanding the way grazing influences the storage and cycling of carbon and nitrogen also has implications for the way pastures should be managed to optimize these effects.

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