What is it about?

Grassland, steppe, and savanna ecosystems make up about 40% of the Earth’s land surface, and they store a large amount of carbon in their soil. One key aspect in soil carbon storage is grazing by large mammalian herbivores. While previous studies have shown how large herbivores influence the size of this soil carbon pool, our results show that herbivores also help maintain the stability of carbon in soil. One factor underlying this stability was nitrogen which can either stabilize or destabilize the carbon pool, depending on environmental conditions. However, grazing by herbivores changes this interaction in a way that tips the balance in favor of stabilization.

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Why is it important?

With continued decline in large mammalian herbivores across the world, the loss of their favorable influence on soil carbon can have negative consequences for the global carbon cycle. So, protecting large herbivores who can safeguard soil carbon should remain a key priority for mitigating climate change.


This article has been a great pleasure. It started when SB was a PhD student, and the research was continued by SR and by DGTN. The deserts of the Himalaya are special, and we received a lot of support and goodwill from the people of Spiti.

Sumanta Bagchi
Indian Institute of Science

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Loss of grazing by large mammalian herbivores can destabilize the soil carbon pool, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2211317119.
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