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Rethinking range ecology implications for rangeland management in Africa

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... Grasslands are an important component of terrestrial ecosystems, accounting for 40.5% of the total global land area (excluding ice caps and ice sheets) [1], and have important ecological and food production functions [2,3]. Grassland degradation is a phenomenon where climatic or anthropogenic disturbances exceed the self-regulatory threshold of grassland ecosystems, making it difficult to recover and reverse successional change [2,4,5]. In the past century, global widespread and multiform grassland degradation has reduced the productivity of grasslands, weakened ecosystem services and reduced the carrying capacity of the land, and also reduced the livelihoods of residents who depend on grasslands and livestock farming or become refugees [2,6], which has become one of the important worldwide ecological and environmental problems [2,7]. ...
... Many studies have analyzed the mechanisms of grassland degradation governance [2,10], for different cases and scenarios of grassland degradation governance, and have focused on the ecological restoration options and institutional designs for grassland degradation governance [11,12]. The impact of human factors on grassland degradation has been widely documented [2,13,14], especially in commons [15], where livestock numbers can easily exceed the carrying capacity of the grasslands [4], which is known as overgrazing, an overgrazing practice is generally undertaken by herders to gain more revenue [16]. While controlling livestock numbers is an important way to combat overgrazing on grasslands [15], some research has shown that increasing herders' incomes and promoting livelihood differentiation, can effectively reduce their overgrazing behavior [17]. ...
... Moderate grazing is an important approach to the sustainable use of global grassland resources, and therefore there is a need to balance the relationship between grassland sustainability and livelihood sustainability [4], and to meet the needs of herders for survival and development while avoiding overgrazing. Exploring effective mechanisms to manage grassland degradation to maintain sustainable functions and the services of the grassland ecosystems, and achieve sustainable livelihoods for the local people, is an issue worth exploring. ...
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Grassland degradation has become one of the most important ecological and environmental problems in the world, affecting the ecological balance of grassland and the welfare of residents. To reveal the impact mechanism of herders' livelihood constraints on grassland degradation, and to explore the comprehensive management methods to ensure herders' livelihoods and grassland ecological restoration, this paper constructed an evolutionary game model considering local governments and herders. It is found that the ideal stable equilibrium game can be achieved when certain conditions are met, that is, when the local governments actively regulate and herders moderate grazing, the grassland degradation caused by overgrazing can be reduced. The livelihood differentiation of herders significantly affects the stable equilibrium state of the evolutionary game. The local government's regulation is the key to promoting moderate grazing of herders. The effect of incentive measures on the moderate grazing of herders is limited, while punishment measures can significantly restrict the excessive grazing behavior of herders. Policy support for household livelihood differentiation can effectively motivate herders to moderate grazing and achieve their survival and development needs to a greater extent through a non-grazing livelihood. The research results help decision-makers to formulate policies to combat grassland degradation, and promote the improvement of herders' lives.
... Longstanding models of pastoralist behavior emphasized equilibrium dynamics, in which herders presumably maintain stable numbers of livestock below "carrying capacities" for rangeland ecosystems (see Galaty and Johnson, 1990). Scholars now favor disequilibrium (nonequilibrium) frameworks for understanding the ecology of pastoralism in arid and semi-arid environments, acknowledging relatively predictable, unavoidable droughts that periodically decimate livestock holdings (Behnke and Scoones, 1993;Ellis and Swift, 1988; see also McCabe, 2021). Herders plan for these droughts and manage livestock accordingly, typically by emphasizing responsive, flexible patterns of mobility and building livestock redundancy into the system. ...
... These studies demonstrate diverse mobility systems among eastern African pastoralists, including seasonal, but flexible, strategies in which houses and households or partial households move periodically (or as needed) to accommodate arid, unpredictable, or changing environments (Behnke and Scoones, 1993;Homewood, 2008). Cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys have various needs for pasture, water, and salt, and patterns of livestock mobility (i.e. ...
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This paper evaluates risk-oriented frameworks for explaining environmental, social, and economic changes faced by fishing and herding communities in the Turkana Basin during and after the African Humid Period (AHP, 15–5 ka). The orbitally-forced AHP created moist conditions, high lake levels, and unusual hydrological connections across much of northern and eastern Africa. As arid conditions set in and rainfall decreased between 5.3 and 3.9 ka in eastern Africa, Lake Turkana (NW Kenya) shrank dramatically. Shoreline retreat coincided with an expansion of open plains, creating new ecological conditions and potential opportunities for early herders in the basin. In this changing landscape, economies shifted from food procurement (fishing/hunting aquatic resources) to food production (herding), likely through both in-migration by pastoralists and adoption of herding by local fishers. Early pastoralists also built at least seven megalithic pillar sites that served as communal cemeteries during this time. Recent research has shown that local environmental dynamics – both during and after the AHP – were complex, demanding a more careful interrogation of the notion that post-AHP life entailed new and/or heightened risks. Risk-buffering strategies might include mobility, diversification, physical storage, and exchange. Archaeologists working around Lake Turkana have proposed that economic shifts from fishing to pastoralism entailed increased mobility as a risk-buffering strategy to deal with aridity and resource unpredictability, and that pillar sites – as fixed landmarks in an unstable landscape – provided settings for congregation and exchange amongst increasingly mobile herding communities. However, recent research has shown that local environmental dynamics in the Lake Turkana basin – both during and after the AHP – were more complex than previously thought, necessitating re-evaluation of the notion that post-AHP life entailed new and/or heightened risks. Here, we explore risk buffering strategies (e.g. mobility, diversification, physical storage and/or exchange) as only one category of potential explanation for the new social practices observed in the region at this time. Gauging their applicability requires us to (a) assess the spatial mobility of communities and individuals interred at pillar sites; (b) evaluate whether and how mobility strategies may have changed as pastoralism supplanted fishing; and (c) examine alternative explanations for social and economic changes.
... However, the experience of pastoralism raises the question of the relevance of the notion of resilience when applied to the analysis of social and territorialised change. Although pastoral production systems have become a prime target for the use of the notion of resilience in the last ten years, their capacities to adapt to their environmental conditions were recognised long ago by veterinarians, anthropologists, geographers and ecologists (Doutressoulle, 1947;Santoir, 1983;Dupire, 1962;Khazanov, 1984;Bonfiglioli, 1988;Behnke & Scoones, 1992), even as politicians persisted in accusing them of archaism: "We have considered nomadic herders as the representatives of an obsolete, or at least moribund, sociological model for so long that we should start to be surprised that they are still here," (Pouillon, 1990). Yet the real paradox lies elsewhere: the notion of resilience, used to describe the capacity of systems to adapt and endure in the long term, generally takes little account of the analysis of the dynamics of social change, albeit the mainspring of structural societal transformations. ...
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What is the political function of the ubiquitous term "resilience" in today's development aid? This article analyses the discourse of some aid programmes and projects, drawing on 15 years of empirical research on the Sahelian pastoral populations, who today are a symbol of resilience. It shows how the notion of resilience conveys compassionate and security meanings characteristic of a neoliberal policy, resulting in the weakening of public policies. Beyond an alternative between rhetoric and innovation, the use of this notion applied to social groups fine-tunes the ideological steering setting the course of development policy since the 1980s. This article questions the originality of resilience-building projects at local level and the relevance of this notion in the social field.
... However, grasslands are complex and dynamic ecosystems that change in space and time, whose effects of change are not linear [33][34][35]. Such dynamism may lead to uncertain outcomes and unpredictable collateral effects elsewhere from any external/human-related actions taken [36]. Consequently, the improper use of grasslands has led to ecosystems degradation, to which livestock production systems are a major contributor [19]. ...
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Grasslands and ecosystem services are under threat due to common practices adopted by modern livestock farming systems. Design theory has been an alternative to promote changes and develop more sustainable strategies that allow pastoral livestock production systems to evolve continually within grasslands by enhancing their health and enabling the continuous delivery of multiple ecosystem services. To create a design framework to design alternative and more sustainable pastoral livestock production systems, a better comprehension of grassland complexity and dynamism for a diagnostic assessment of its health is needed, from which the systems thinking theory could be an important approach. By using systems thinking theory, the key components of grasslands—soil, plant, ruminant—can be reviewed and better understood from a holistic perspective. The description of soil, plant and ruminant individually is already complex itself, so understanding these components, their interactions, their response to grazing management and herbivory and how they contribute to grassland health under different climatic and topographic conditions is paramount to designing more sustainable pastoral livestock production systems. Therefore, by taking a systems thinking approach, we aim to review the literature to better understand the role of soil, plant, and ruminant on grassland health to build a design framework to diagnose and enhance grassland health under pastoral livestock production systems.
... However, a fixed carrying capacity in the sense of long-term plant-animal balance is unlikely, especially in regions with high climate variability such as arid and semi-arid lands, where resource availability, and therefore animal number, fluctuates together with abiotic factors stochasticity (Arrow et al., 1995;Gillson and Hoffman, 2007). For this reason, different studies argued that the carrying capacity cannot be a fixed quantity, and therefore started to think of a more complex and dynamic variability of ecological systems (Behnke and Scoones, 1992;Scoones, 1995). ...
Thesis
Rangelands are domestic or wildlife grazing lands including grasslands, woodlands, shrublands, and some extent of deserts. In Africa, rangelands cover approximately 28% (ca. 8,300,000 km2) of the continent, where they provide essential ecosystem services (e.g., meat and dairy products, water, shade, recreation, pollination) in support of the livestock rearing activities of some 270 million people. The rangelands of Africa are found where most of global rural poverty and hunger are concentrated. In other words, they occur in countries defined as some of the most vulnerable to climate change and anthropogenic transformations. Studying the way ecosystems respond to these disturbances should prioritise developing regions that directly support millions of people. However, the response of African rangelands to global environmental change, and therefore their capacity to sustain people’s livelihood, has not been studied in detail. Based on three decades of optical and microwave satellite data, and a dynamic global vegetation model, this study represents the first African-scale assessment of long-term rangeland vegetation dynamics. Overall, findings revealed that African rangelands greened- up between 1982 and 2015 (ca. 3,500,000 km2 greening vs. ca. 700,000 km2 browning), thus supporting the recent evidence of a greening Earth. In addition, while most (ca. 2,400,000 km2) changes in rangeland vegetation resulted to be controlled by climate (climatic-driven rangelands), there exist substantial areas (ca. 1,800,000 km2) where this is not the case (non-climatic-driven rangelands). This evidence may imply that many biogeochemical models, where climate is the main input information for vegetation growth simulations, might not capture the complete trajectory of current and future changes in biosphere-atmosphere interactions. Importantly, the investigation of long-term changes in the vegetation composition highlighted that a switch in the woody and herbaceous vegetation coverage occurred. While climatic greening (ca. 2,200,000 km2) resulted from positive trends in both woody and herbaceous cover, non-climatic greening (ca. 1,400,000 km2) was associated with an increase in woody cover and a concomitant decline in herbaceous vegetation. Opposite evidence, i.e., decreased woody cover and increased herbaceous vegetation, was observed in non-climatic browning rangelands (ca. 400,000 km2). These results suggest that while greening boosts climate change mitigation via high carbon uptake, the encroachment of woody species likely shortens the resources available to pastoral communities. On the other hand, woody-controlled browning attenuates carbon sequestration rates, but higher herbaceous cover may inform of potential more forage for pastoralists.
... For a long time stigmatized as an environmentally degrading element with the development of concepts of "overgrazing", "desertification" and "land degradation", pastoralism benefits from a return to grace through the recognition of its contribution to the development of its environment. By re-characterizing the environment of pastoralists in arid areas of uncertain, variable, ecosystem imbalance, etc., the major contributions of Ellis & Swift (1988), Westoby et al. (1989), Behnke et al. (1993), Scoones (1999), Ellis (1999) and Perrier (1999), have helped to rethink the ecology of the rangelands and to seek to determine the respective shares of climatic factors and pastoral activity in the degradation of pastoral environments. ...
... Both works pointed out that pastoral development solutions that were considered selfevident were indeed dependent on a particular analytical model of ecological systems. From the new perspective, as formalised by Behnke and Scoones (1993): ...
... † Ecologists continue to explore the role of livestock grazing in rangeland management (Briske, Fuhlendorf, and Smeins 2003;Ellis and Swift 1988;Retzer 2006;Vetter 2005), and recent studies have increasingly shown a positive correlation between traditional pastoralism and rangeland health (Ingty 2021;Kohli et al. 2021;Pozo et al. 2021;Zhang et al. 2020). However, colonial legacies of conservation and the spectre of "overgrazing" in the political narratives of pastoral landscapes have led to the curtailing of pastoralists' access to their pastures, sedentarization, and even the removal of pastoral communities from their traditional pastures across Africa, Asia, Inner Mongolia, and China for the sake of "biodiversity conservation" (Behnke and Scoones 1992;Caravani 2019;Gonin and Gautier 2015;Mortimore 1998;Schmidt and Pearson 2016;Singh et al. 2021;Weber and Horst 2011;Weldemichel 2020;Yeh 2005;Zhizhong and Wen 2008). Scholarly engagements have showcased a wide range of social, cultural, and ecological outcomes of such state-led political interventions in the pastoral landscapes (Conte and Tilt 2014;Ichinkhorloo and Yeh 2016;Li et al. 2013). ...
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Conservation-induced displacement has been one of the major critiques of protected area management across South Asia. While there has been a steady increase in research on physical displacement, studies on loss of mobility remain limited. In 1998, a grazing ban was implemented in the state of Sikkim in the Eastern Himalayan region of India. Livestock herding in protected areas was restricted, and pastoral evictions were carried out across the state between 2000–2002. Fifteen years after the ban, we conducted this study to understand the long-term implications of the prohibition on grazing as well as that of the pastoral evictions in and around Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP). To do so, we assess eviction processes, document pastoral responses, and explore the complex social and perceived ecological outcomes of the grazing ban. Our study shows that pastoral evictions result in the further impoverishment of weaker sections of the pastoral community while powerful pastoralists appropriate benefits from conservation policies. Additionally, evictions do not necessarily aid in “biodiversity conservation”; instead, they give rise to social conflicts within the local community and lead to the emergence of new conservation challenges...
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The purpose of this article is to use high-resolution remote sensing data and geographic information systems to determine the temporal variation of construction on summer pasturelands in the Atyaylası region of Bolu Province, Turkey and to present a discussion on land policies for pastureland management as a result. By taking the current land use into consideration, a large number of constructions are observed on the pasture assets, especially those used as housing and tourism facilities. The responsibility of the state to prevent the misuse and destruction of pasturelands is mentioned in Article 45 of the Turkish Constitution, and the Pasture Law prohibits absolutely any construction on pasture assets in Turkey. Despite these legal provisions, maps of the Atyaylası region prepared for the years of 2014, 2018 and 2021 show that construction and road production on pasturelands increased by more than twice during this period, and that the Informal Housing Formalization Amnesty, which took effect in 2018, has accelerated these construction activities. Pasture-qualified lands, which are among the public common goods guaranteed by the law, should be used for the public benefit and ecological sustainability. However, the findings support the idea that this trend is in the opposite direction in Turkey.
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Three methods for measuring the benefits of commercial and subsistence livestock production in Africa are discussed. Firstly, biological measures of herd performance are illusstrated with material from Botswana. Secondly, the profitability of the herding operation can be measured economically, a technique which requires the ascription of cash values to in-kind produce. An improved method for imputing these values is presented. Finally, one can compare the nutritional status of human populations engaged in commercial and non-commercial livestock production. Each of these three techniques provides a limited description of the total environment which conditions farmer decision-making. As a general rule, therefore, we should favor a combination of techniques and exercise considerable skepticism in evaluating the results of any undimensional comparison.