Carbon and Greenhouse Gases
The Prairie Pothole Region in the northern Great Plains is a mosaic of millions of wetlands and small lakes embedded within prairie grasslands and croplands. Management of these land types, whether in cropland or grasslands, can have a tremendous impact on carbon and nitrogen cycling of wetland and upland areas alike. Sound agricultural practices result in optimal soil conditions, increased soil fertility, and decreased soil carbon losses, which ultimately translate to increases in crop production for food, fuel and fiber. In addition, proper land management can lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (like methane and nitrous oxide), air pollution, and eutrophication, as well as sequester carbon from the atmosphere, improve wetland habitats for breeding birds and pollinators, and help mitigate flooding. Currently, the soil processes that lay the foundation for these agro-ecosystem goods and services are governed by a complex suit of biotic and abiotic processes that are poorly understood. Improved understanding of these underlying processes is the key information needed to support development of best management practices for local and regional economies to maximize agro-ecosystem production, while also fulfilling societal goals to maintain healthy wetlands ecosystems that have potential to offset greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.