How do grasslands store carbon?
Through the natural process of photosynthesis, grassland uses carbon dioxide from the air (CO2), solar energy and water to grow. Carbon builds up in plant tissue and then in the soil as organic matter when plants die. This is why we say that the soil of permanent meadows stores carbon (in our climates, on average 760 kg per hectare per year in the current state of knowledge). On the other hand, if they are plowed, the stored carbon is re-emitted in the form of CO2, when the organic matter in the soil comes into contact with the oxygen in the air. It is therefore important to maintain the areas of permanent meadows and their carbon stock.
The role of grasslands: carbon sinks Globally, these grasslands store “30% of the carbon in the world’s soil” and play an essential role in the fight against climate change.
According to the latest reports from the Livestock Institute, this carbon storage in the soil of meadows and hedges would compensate on average 30% of greenhouse gas emissions (in CO2 equivalent) from herbivorous livestock (between 24% and 53% depending on the beef and beef farming systems). This corresponds to around 75% of methane emissions from cattle.