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Grassland carbon capturing and storage (CCS) is thought to benefit from regulation of grazing. The impact is likely to depend on livestock density. Yet, few studies have tested this principle or evaluated the consistency of grazer-carbon relationships across multiple sites. We sampled 4 intertidal zones across 22 salt marshes along a 650 km stretch of coast in the UK to examine the impact of livestock density on globally important saltmarsh ‘blue carbon’ stocks. Although there were marked impacts of grazing pressure on above ground vegetation composition, structure and biomass, there was no detectable relationship between grazing intensity and soil organic carbon, irrespective of tidal zone in the marsh or soil depth-layer analysed. A substantial spatial variation in soil carbon was instead explained by contextual environmental variables. There was evidence that compensatory responses by vegetation, such as increased root growth, countered carbon loss from grazing impacts. Our work suggests that grazing effects on carbon stocks are minimal on broader scales in comparison with the influence of environmental context. The benefits of grazing management to carbon stores are likely to be highly context dependent.
Original languageEnglish
Article number151
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2019

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