Carbon Monitoring in Rangelands

Restoring rangelands for climate adaptation and mitigation

Team Collaborators

Over a quarter of the planet’s ice-free land is used for the grazing of livestock, and these rangelands hold 30% of global soil carbon.

Conversion of prairie to cropland and overgrazing has caused substantial soil carbon loss. However, through improved land management, rangelands offer an enormous opportunity to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and limit climate change. Carbon Monitoring in Rangelands is a research program aimed at understanding and unlocking the promise of rangeland management as a natural climate solution by providing tools and data that enable rangeland managers to better understand their land’s carbon balance and engage with carbon markets.

The project is developing and verifying Woodwell’s new Rangeland Carbon Tracking and Management Tool (RCTM), a low-cost, spatially resolved, remote sensing and field-data informed system for quantifying and monitoring soil carbon stocks and CO2 exchange (carbon flux) for rangeland systems across the United States. The RCTM will improve on current measurement systems by combining soil spectroscopy, remote sensing, process-based modeling, and data analytics. It will provide a robust process for monitoring, reporting, and verifying carbon credits and allow scientists and land managers to understand the true greenhouse gas consequences of rangeland management.

Map of soil carbon change over the past 20 years across a ranch in SW Colorado. Most of the area has gained soil organic carbon, but a handful of small spots show a loss of carbon

Above: Map of soil carbon change over the past 20 years across a ranch in Southwest Colorado. Image by Andrew Mullen.

Carbon Monitoring in Rangelands envisions building the RCTM system with open source data and code and ultimately delivering it as a free public-facing web application for range managers interested in engaging with emerging carbon markets. By providing accurate and timely data on rangeland carbon change, the project has the potential to catalyze more producers to adopt carbon-friendly management practices and lead to more efficient, productive land.

Support provided by:
Conscience Bay Research
Mighty Arrow Family Foundation
J.M. Kapland Fund
Woodwell Fund for Climate Solutions

Partners & Collaborators
  • Montana State University
  • Colorado State University
  • MPG Ranch
  • Mighty Arrow Family Foundation logo
  • J.M. Kaplan Fund logo

Selected Related Publications

Soil organic carbon fractions in the Great Plains of the United States: an application of mid-infrared spectroscopy

Sanderman, J., J.A. Baldock, S.R.S. Dangal, S. Ludwig, S. Potter, C. Rivard, and K. Savage (2021). Biogeochemistry


Evaluating three calibration transfer methods for predictions of soil properties using mid‐infrared spectroscopy

Pittaki‐Chrysodonta, Z., A.E. Hartemink, J. Sanderman, Y. Ge, and J. Huang (2021). Soil Science Society of America Journal