Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Forestry Sciences


Natural Resources Management


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Yiwen Chiu

Advisor Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Carbon sequestration is paramount to reducing climate change. Grasslands, representing 40% of all terrestrial area, can serve as a primary sequestration location if optimal management strategies can be realized. This study used system dynamics modeling to examine the temporal dynamics of carbon stocks and flows in response to grass species composition, grazing intensity, and temperature and precipitation changes at the landscape level. While there are other biogeochemical models in existence, they are either meant to model large areas, including globally, or are meant to be at a farm level and have limited plot sizes, limiting the options for rangeland managers to test management strategies in larger areas. The aims included conducting a field study of the rangeland, create an initial model; evaluate how the model responded to grazing, temperature, and precipitation changes; and compare the model outcomes to prior work to test the behavior of the model as the start of validation. This thesis used four plant functional groups (C3 and C4 grasses, forbs, and legumes) as the base groups for the model. C4 grasses were not found in in the field study but served to test whether the model detected changes in sequestration when grassland composition is changed. The results demonstrated an approach of using functional groups in system dynamics modeling to optimize carbon sequestration while accounting for diverse management strategies, as has been seen in other biogeochemical models. The model was aligned with prior field research in terms of carbon sequestration levels. The model was able to note differences in grazing regimes, temperature, and precipitation changes in terms of carbon sequestration. Grazing scenarios showed that while increased grazing impacted aboveground litter, it had little impact on sequestration; there was only a 4% increase in carbon with no grazing, Changes in temperature, up to 3°C, were predicted to increase carbon sequestration by 16% from 0.442 to 0.514 kg*m-2*day-1 while decreases in precipitation, both alone and in combination with increasing temperatures, was predicted to decrease sequestration up to 44%. This has to do with the grassland composition, ii especially as this was a C3 dominated grassland which grows in the winter and early spring and required more water but lower temperatures for growth. Future research should continue model validation, test additional functional groups like shrubs, implement more soil carbon pools and flows and add a nitrogen component to the model.