Recent fires, drought and NAU studies on Diablo Trust lands have turned my focus to carbon, the life element – as we keep “learning from the land and sharing our knowledge.”
Optimal levels of organic carbon are essential for optimal plant and animal diversity, stable soils and water infiltration. Because fire, grazing and drought each affect the cycling of carbon, good land stewardship is vital on our lands.
Over the past month the catastrophic Tinder Fire has burned over 16,000 acres on the southern end of Diablo Trust lands. The 2010 Schultz Fire covered over 21,000 acres and had greater burn severity than the Tinder Fire, but both caused great damage to infrastructure and management plans. A May 17th film screening and forum at the Museum of Northern Arizona emphasized how a coalition of dozens of agencies and organizations (including urban water users) are now uniting to reduce the growing incidence and size of hot fires which kill big trees, plant roots, and soil microorganisms.
In this vein, Diablo Trust works to manage ground cover through tree thinning and planned grazing so when fires happen they are cool fires which benefit the ecosystem.
Our region continues in serious drought which reduces the net carbon in plants and soil. Diablo Trust ranchers are now coordinating with agency staff to reduce and adjust water availability and livestock and wild ungulate grazing to achieve our conservation goals.
Soil carbon balance is the topic of the master’s thesis just completed by Megan Deane McKenna with NAU’s School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability (SESES). Megan compared soil carbon content of dozens of grazed sites and adjacent ungrazed sites and found that grazing had a slightly net positive effect on soil carbon sequestration.
A full report will be given in our next newsletter, if not earlier on our blog.
Please join with us in Diablo Trust’s active process of land stewardship, because healthy land and wide-open spaces don’t “just happen” in today’s world with so “many cooks in the kitchen.”
Norm Lowe, President