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Increases in soil and woody biomass carbon stocks as a result of rangeland riparian restoration.



Globally, vegetation in riparian zones is frequently the target of restoration efforts because of its importance in reducing the input of eroded sediment and agricultural nutrient runoff to surface waters. Here we examine the potential of riparian zone restoration to enhance carbon sequestration. We measured soil and woody biomass carbon stocks, as well as soil carbon properties, in a long-term chronosequence of 42 streambank revegetation projects in northern California rangelands, varying in restoration age from 1 to 45 years old.


Where revegetation was successful, we found that soil carbon measured to 50 cm depth increased at a rate of 0.87 Mg C ha-1 year-1 on the floodplain and 1.12 Mg C ha-1 year-1 on the upper bank landform. Restored sites also exhibited trends toward increased soil carbon permanence, including an increased C:N ratio and lower fulvic acid: humic acid ratio. Tree and shrub carbon in restored sites was modeled to achieve a 50-year maximum of 187.5 Mg C ha-1 in the channel, 279.3 Mg ha-1 in the floodplain, and 238.66 Mg ha-1 on the upper bank. After 20 years of restoration, the value of this carbon at current per-ton C prices would amount to $US 15,000 per km of restored stream.


We conclude that revegetating rangeland streambanks for erosion control has a substantial additional benefit of mitigating global climate change, and should be considered in carbon accounting and any associated financial compensation mechanisms.

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