Stephanie Larson, Ph.D. UC Cooperative Extension, Sonoma County
Rangelands owners and managers are familiar with the economic value that rangelands provide – specifically grazing opportunities for livestock; however that 40% of California’s land mass provides so much more. It is a whole ecosystem that provides benefits to the landowner and to all life forms living or passing through that land. The benefit of well-maintained ecosystem services is as small as neighbors that benefit from clean water to as great at as worldwide benefit of clean air and carbon sequestration. In Sonoma and Marin Counties, the number of rangelands acres equals almost one million. These rangelands, containing both annual and perennial ecosystems, require long term education and research management based practices to achieve ecological and economical goals.
Ecosystem services are the functions performed in systems that lead to desirable environmental outcomes, affecting a multitude of landscape habitats. Ecosystem service categories form the basis for the educational materials and research publications in the UCCE created data base web site, http://ucanr.org/sites/RangelandES/ . This web site documents the importance of rangelands and their management for enhancement, as it relates to ecosystem services. The database also contains examples of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES).
The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) wants to document the services rangelands provide, especially those related to management. Through this effort, UCCE will generate information about what management practices have been or will be implemented and the increased ecosystem values to marketable and non-marketable services, such as beef production, water quantity and quality and carbon sequestration. This project plans to produce a quantitative analysis, actual services that occur on rangelands, to increase specific research based knowledge on impacts received from well management, functioning rangelands.
Rangeland owners are increasingly seeking opportunities to supply public benefits through incentive-based approaches for environmental restoration, and agencies are seeking ways to spend their limited funding more effectively. In recognizing rangeland owners’ contributions on improved ecosystem services, private and public agencies could provide additional revenues to them. Documentation of ecosystem services on rangelands is supported by several stakeholders, comprised of policy makers, NGO’s and affiliated organizations such as, California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), California Woolgrowers (CWA), Farm Bureau (FB), Natural Resource Conversion Service (NRCS), California Rangeland Trust (CRT), and the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition (CRCC).
Knowing more about ecosystem services and how management decisions impact them, will help inform rangeland owners on what practices to implement and on possible payment incentives. Payments for Ecosystem Services are potential markets for increasing agricultural sustainability while increasing desired habitat management goals. Sonoma and Marin Counties’ million acre annual rangeland ecosystem supports rural agricultural economies; houses diverse plant and animal communities; and, supplies a source for abundant, clean drinking water. This project hopes to motivate both private and public agencies along with local rangelands owners to maximize productivity while enhancing non marketable ecosystem services. This could increase the long term sustainability of cultural ranching while maintaining functional landscapes, which comprise our local rangelands.
If you are interested in learning more about the project, contact Stephanie Larson,