• Evaluating Management Options to Increase Roadside Carbon Sequestration

      Ament, Robert; Hartshorn, Tony; Powell, Scott (2019-01-30)
      We estimated the amount of carbon sequestered along Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) roads and tested 3 different highway right-of-way (ROW) management techniques to increase carbon stocks. Using Geographic Information System techniques, the total ROW acreage owned by MDT was found to sequester 75,292 metric tons of carbon per year and to consist mostly of grasslands (70%). From 2016-2018 we tested 3 ROW management techniques to increase carbon stocks- increase mowing height, plant woody shrubs, or add legumes to reclamation seed mixes of disturbed soils - at 3 sites (Three Forks [3F], Bear Canyon [BC], and Bozeman Pass [BP]) along Interstate 90 in southwestern Montana. Soil samples generally averaged 0.75–1.5% soil organic carbon (SOC) at the 3F site, 2.5–4% SOC at the BC site, and 1.5–2.5% SOC at the BP site. Average SOC levels were always lower in 2018 than in 2016. Soil respiration rates were generally highest in June or July at the BC site, averaging ~4 μmol CO2 m-2 second-1. Soil respiration rates were lower at the BC site in November 2016, at the BP site in June 2018, and at the 3F site in July 2018 (all ~2–3 μmol CO2 m-2 s-1). Aboveground biomass carbon estimates generally mirrored belowground SOC estimates. Taken together, our findings suggest that of the three treatments implemented (raised mowing height, shrub planting, and disturbance), minimizing disturbance to soils likely makes the greatest contribution to the medium- and long-term carbon-storage potential of these roadside soils.