Management and site effects on carbon balances of European mountain meadows and rangelands
Sutton, Mark A.
Sanz, Maria J.
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We studied carbon balances and carbon stocks of mountain rangelands and meadows in a network of 8 eddy covariance sites and 14 sites with biomass data in Europe. Net ecosystem exchange of pastures and extensively managed semi-natural rangelands were usually close to zero, while meadows fixed carbon, with the exception of one meadow that was established on a drained peatland. When we accounted for off-site losses and inputs also the carbon budget of meadows approached zero. Soil carbon stocks in these ecosystems were high, comparable to those of forest ecosystems, while carbon stocks in plant biomass were smaller. Since soil carbon stocks of abandoned mountain grasslands are as high as in managed ecosystems, it is likely that the widespread abandonment of mountain rangelands used currently as pastures will not lead to an immediate carbon sink in those ecosystems.