New study to investigate influence of cattle grazing on particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires

Preliminary results expected by the end of August 2021.

This article was contributed by Devii Rao, livestock and natural resources advisor for the UC Cooperative Extension.

UC Cooperative recently wrapped up a grant that explored the benefits of livestock for fire fuels reduction and fire safety. The next phase of this study has just been initiated. The research team will build on their prior work to calculate the particulate matter (PM) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from herbaceous vegetation (fine fuels) consumed by livestock, compared to those produced if the same forage/fuels were instead burned in a wildfire. They will also consider the potential PM and GHG emissions from the same quantity of decaying vegetation.

In order to understand the influence of grazing on PM and GHG emissions from wildfire, the researchers will use these estimates and model results in a statewide context by:

  • Calculating the total grassland/rangeland area burned annually in the state over the past five to ten years.
  • Comparing that to grazed rangeland acreage and the total amount of forage/fuel removed by cattle in California which they calculated in the previous study, and inferring how this could affect PM and GHG.
  • Examining the recent large SCU Lightning Complex Fire, as a case study. The SCU fire was entirely in rangeland, much of which was grazed.

The research team will focus on private lands and non-federal public lands. However, they will also identify U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lease locations and acreages in order to compare PM and GHG differences on private and non-federal public lands versus federal lands.

Preliminary results are expected to be presented at a workshop or conference by the end of August 2021.

This research project is funded by the California Cattle Council.

Devii Rao

I am the UC Cooperative Extension Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor serving San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties.