Grassland genomics for green house gas mitigation (GG4GHG)
Grassland systems, both natural and seeded, cover more than 16 million hectares of land in Canada. Grasslands sequester a large amount of carbon and stably store it in the soil. Many grasslands, however, are lost every year, and some are not well managed in terms of carbon storage or greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation.
Increasing native species and genetic diversity in grasslands will enhance carbon storage. It will also enhance other ecosystem services (ES) that can further mitigate GHGs, including forage productivity, wild pollination and natural pest control. Microbial and insect communities, which change rapidly, are good indicators of GHG mitigation.
This project, in partnership with producer groups, NGOs and First Nations, will use metabarcoding and metagenomics to quantify how microbial and insect biodiversity relates to native plant genetic and species diversity, and how these relationships influence ES in grasslands. The aim is to develop robust models and tools for predicting the ES benefits and performing cost-benefit analyses for different seeding strategies. These tools will inform stewardship decisions and government policymaking through translation into web and mobile apps for industry use.
Climate-smart pasture seed mixes will increase biodiversity, facilitate re-introduction of native species and diversify seed company offerings. Increased diversity of grasslands will increase carbon storage, thus improving their valuations and reducing GHGs.