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Holistic Management: Misinformation on the Science of Grazed Ecosystems

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  • Kiesha's Preserve
  • Allison L Jones LLC
Article

Holistic Management: Misinformation on the Science of Grazed Ecosystems

Abstract

Over 3 billion hectares of lands worldwide are grazed by livestock, with a majority suffering degradation in ecological condition. Losses in plant productivity, biodiversity of plant and animal communities, and carbon storage are occurring as a result of livestock grazing. Holistic management (HM) has been proposed as a means of restoring degraded deserts and grasslands and reversing climate change. The fundamental approach of this system is based on frequently rotating livestock herds to mimic native ungulates reacting to predators in order to break up biological soil crusts and trample plants and soils to promote restoration. This review could find no peer-reviewed studies that show that this management approach is superior to conventional grazing systems in outcomes. Any claims of success due to HM are likely due to the management aspects of goal setting, monitoring, and adapting to meet goals, not the ecological principles embodied in HM. Ecologically, the application of HM principles of trampling and intensive foraging are as detrimental to plants, soils, water storage, and plant productivity as are conventional grazing systems. Contrary to claims made that HM will reverse climate change, the scientific evidence is that global greenhouse gas emissions are vastly larger than the capacity of worldwide grasslands and deserts to store the carbon emitted each year.
Review Article
Holistic Management: Misinformation on
the Science of Grazed Ecosystems
John Carter,1Allison Jones,2Mary O’Brien,3Jonathan Ratner,4and George Wuerthner5
1Kiesha’s Preserve, Paris, ID 83261, USA
2Wild Utah Proje ct, Salt Lake City, UT 84 10 1, U SA
3Grand Canyon Trust, Flagsta, AZ 86001, USA
4Western Watersheds Project, Pinedale, WY 82941, USA
5Foundation for Deep Ecology, Bend, OR 97708, USA
Correspondence should be addressed to John Carter; johncarter@hughes.net
Received 6 February 2014; Accepted 24 March 2014; Published 23 April 2014
Academic Editor: Lutz Eckstein
Copyright © 2014 John Carter et al. is is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Over 3 billion hectares of lands worldwide are grazed by livestock, with a majority suering degradation in ecological condition.
Losses in plant productivity, biodiversity of plant and animal communities, and carbon storage are occurring as a result of livestock
grazing. Holistic management (HM) has been proposed as a means of restoring degraded deserts and grasslands and reversing
climate change. e fundamental approach of this system is based on frequently rotating livestock herds to mimic native ungulates
reacting to pre dators in order to break up biologic al soil crusts and trample plant s and soils to promote restoration. is re view could
nd no peer-reviewed studies that show that this management approach is superior to conventional grazing systems in outcomes.
Any claims of success due to HM are likely due to the management aspects of goal setting, monitoring, and adapting to meet goals,
not the ecological principles embodied in HM. Ecologically, the application of HM principles of trampling and intensive foraging
are as detrimental to plants, soils, water storage, and plant productivity as are conventional grazing systems. Contrary to claims
made that HM will reverse climate change, the scientic evidence is that global greenhouse gas emissions are vastly larger than the
capacity of worldwide grasslands and deserts to store the carbon emitted each year.
1. Introduction
Lands grazed by livestock include 3.4 billion ha worldwide
with 73% estimated to be suering soil degradation [1].
e solution presented during Allan Savory’s February 2013
TED Talk was to use holistic management (HM) to reverse
desertication and climate change [2]. He reported that we
arecreating“toomuchbareground”(1:30invideo)inthe
arid areas of the world and, as a consequence, rainfall runs o
or evaporates, soils are damaged, and carbon is released back
to the atmosphere. Grasslands, even in high rainfall areas,
may contain large areas of bare ground with a crust of algae,
leading to increased runo and evaporation. Desertication
is caused by livestock, “overgrazing the plants, leaving the soil
bare, and giving o methane” (4:20 in video).
HM is also called holistic resource management, time
controlled grazing, Savory grazing method, or short-duration
grazing. It is designed to mimic the behavior of grazing
animals that are regulated by their predators to gather in
large groups. As Savory puts it [2], “What we had failed to
understand was that these seasonal humidity environments
of the world, the soil and the vegetation developed with very
large numbers of grazing animals, and that these grazing
animals developed with ferocious pack-hunting predators.
Now, the main defense against pack-hunting predators is
to get into herds, and the larger the herd, the safer the
individuals. Now, large herds dung and urinate all over their
own food, and they have to keep moving, and it was that
movement that prevented the overgrazing of plants, while
the periodic trampling ensured good cover of the soil, as we
Hindawi Publishing Corporation
International Journal of Biodiversity
Volume 2014, Article ID 163431, 10 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/163431
2International Journal of Biodiversity
see where a herd has passed.” (9:28 in video). In view of the
large amount of attention received from the TED talk it is
important to examine the validity of Savory’s claims.
Savory’s writings lack specics that could be used for
implementation of HM or for scientic testing. Details
regarding setting of stocking rates, allowable use by livestock,
amount of rest needed for recovery, or ecological criteria to
be met for biodiversity, sustainability, wildlife, and watershed
protection are absent [37]. ese publications by Savory
and his colleagues show that HM is based on the following
assumptions: (1) plant communities and soils of the arid,
semiarid, and grassland systems of the world evolved in
the presence of large herds of animals regulated by their
predators; (2) grasses in these areas will become decadent and
die out if not grazed by these large herds or their modern
day equivalent, livestock; (3) rest from grazing by these large
herds of livestock will result in grassland deterioration; (4)
large herds are needed to break up decadent plant material
and soil crusts and trample dung, urine, seeds, and plant
material into the soil, promoting plant growth; and (5) high
intensity grazing of these lands by livestock will reverse
desertication and climate change by increasing production
and cover of the soil, thereby storing more carbon.
We address these ve assumptions of HM with a focus
on western North American arid and semiarid ecosystems,
principally in the desert, steppe, grassland, and open conifer
woodland biomes as described by [8]. We use the broad term,
grassland, to be inclusive of these types.
2. Are Western North American Ecosystems
Adapted to Herds of Large Hooved Animals?
Not all of today’s grasslands, arid, and semiarid systems
evolved with herds of large, hooved animals. e Great Plains
of North America and subtropical grasslands in Africa that
receive moisture during the long, warm, and moist growing
season historically supported millions of herbivores [911].
Lands west of the Continental Divide of the USA, including
the Great Basin, Sonoran, Mojave, and Colorado Plateau
deserts, along with the Palouse Prairie grasslands of eastern
Washington, western Montana, and northern Idaho, did not
evolve with signicant grazing pressure from bison (Bison
bison)[9,12,13]. ough bison were abundant east of the
Rockies on the Great Plains, they only occurred in limited
numbers across western Wyoming, northeastern Utah, and
southeastern Idaho [12,14]. ese low numbers and patchy
occurrencewouldnothaveplayedthesameecologicalroleas
in the plains. Historically, pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra
americana) were more widespread than bison west of the
Rockies, but these animals are smaller and lighter than bison
and are not ecologically comparable [9]. Evidence for this
general lack of large herds of grazing animals west of the
Rockies also includes the lack of native dung beetles in
the region. Whereas 34 native species of dung beetle (g.
Onthophagus) are found east of the Rockies on the plains
where bison were numerous, none are found west of the
Rockies [15].
e supposition that current western North American
plant communities are adapted to livestock grazing because
the region supported a diverse herbivore fauna during the
Pleistocene epoch ignores that the plant communities have
changed in the intervening time [16]. ere was rapid evolu-
tionary change following the Pleistocene glaciations in North
America with “the establishment of open xeric grasslands in
the west central part of the USA ...less than 10,000 years ago”
[17]. Many of the grasses of the Pleistocene have disappeared
from the plains and western USA and the fauna of the
Pleistocene was altered by the arrival of bison from Eurasia.
ese were destructive to long-leaved bunchgrasses found
west of the Rockies, while the rhizomatous grasses found
east of the Rockies in the prairies were more resistant to
their grazing pressure. ese rhizomatous grasses are the
types found in the prairies of the central and western USA
in conjunction with fossil remains of bison. In summary,
the western USA of the Pleistocene is not the western USA
of today. e climate was much wetter and cooler and the
vegetation more mesic in the Pleistocene than today [8,18].
e drier periods following the Pleistocene as temperatures
warmed have altered soil conditions and re cycles and
contributed to the changing ora [19,20].
Grasslands cover large areas that could support forests
but are maintained by grasses outcompeting woody species
for belowground resources and providing fuel for res that
limit encroachment of woody species [21]. Climate change
and increasing CO2concentrations have been implicated in
the post industrial expansion of woody species and invasive
species into grasslands; however, studies from paired loca-
tionsingrasslandshaveshownthatundersimilarclimatic
and CO2environments, herbivory by domestic livestock has
caused the shis in woody species and increased invasive
species [20,22,23]. Elevated CO2and climate warming
appear to contribute to, but do not explain, the shrub
encroachment in these semiarid areas which is due to
intensive grazing by domestic livestock [24].
Conclusion. Western US ecosystems outside the prairies in
which bison occurred are not adapted to the impact of
large herds of livestock. Recent changes to these grassland
ecosystems result from herbivory by domestic livestock
which has altered re cycles and promoted invasive species
at the expense of native vegetation.
3. Do Grasses Senesce and Die
If Not Grazed by Livestock?
A major premise of HM is that grass species depend on large
grazing ungulates in some way, and thus grasses become
moribund and die if not grazed, leading to deterioration or
eventual loss of the entire grass community [6]. e dead or
dormant residual leaves and stalks that remain attached to
ungrazed grasses at the end of each growing season can be
deceptive. e plants are still alive and healthy, with living
buds at the plant base. Bunchgrass canopies collect snow
and funnel rainwater to the plant base and soil and increase
inltration [25]. e plants and dead leaves in contact
withthesoilreduceoverlandowanderosion[26]. Plant
International Journal of Biodiversity 3
canopies moderate temperature and protect the growing
points from temperature extremes [27]. e standing dead
litter provides cover and food for wildlife species including
large and small mammals, ground-living birds, and insects.
e loss of these leaves and stems through heavy grazing
by livestock which occurs under HM destroys these natural
attributes.
Grasses with attached dead leaves are more productive
than grasses from which the dead leaves have been removed.
Loss of these dead tissues to grazers increases thermal
damagetothegrowingshootsandreducesthevigorof
the entire plant [28]. Dead leaves and owering stalks on
ungrazed grasses inhibit livestock grazing, allowing those
grasses to grow larger than their neighbors [29]. Grazing and
trampling by domestic livestock damage plants in natural
plant communities [3032], reduce forage production as
stocking rates increase [33], and can lead to simplication
of plant communities, establishment of woody vegetation
in grasslands, and regression to earlier successional stages
[20] or conversion to invasive dominated communities [23]
and altered re cycles [20]. In contrast to the assertion that
grasses will die if not grazed by livestock, bunchgrasses in arid
environments are more likely to die if they are heavily grazed
by domestic animals [34,35].
Conclusion. Grasses, particularly bunchgrasses, have struc-
ture that protects growing points from damage, harvests
water, and protects the soil at the plant base. Removal of the
standing plant material exposes the growing points, leading
to loss or replacement by grazing tolerant species, including
invasives.
4. Does Rest Cause Grassland Deterioration?
Another principle of HM is that grasslands and their soils
deteriorate from overrest, a term that implies insucient
grazing by livestock. However, grasslands that have never
been grazed by livestock have been found to support high
cover of grasses and forbs. Relict sites throughout the west-
ern USA, such as on mesa tops, steep gorges, cli sides,
and even highway rights of way, which are inaccessible to
livestock or most ungulates, can retain thriving bunchgrass
communities [3638]. For example, herbaceous growth was
vigorous on never-grazed Jordan Valley kipukas in southeast
Oregon [37]andonaonce-grazedbuttecalledeIslandin
south central Oregon [36]. Published comparisons of grazed
and ungrazed lands in the western USA have found that
rested sites have larger and more dense grasses, fewer weedy
forbs and shrubs, higher biodiversity, higher productivity,
less bare ground, and better water inltration than nearby
grazed sites. ese reports include 139 sites in south Dakota
[39], as well as sites that had been rested for 18 years in
Montana [40], 30 years in Nevada [41], 20–40 years in British
Columbia [42], 45 years in Idaho [43], and 50 years in the
Sonoran Desert of Arizona [44]. None of the above studies
demonstrated that long periods of rest damaged native
grasslands. A list and description of such sites can be found
in [45].
e HM misinterpretation of the natural history of grazed
and ungrazed grasslands is apparent in Savory’s description
of the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch in southeastern
Arizona [6].isranchhasbeenprotectedfromlivestock
grazing since 1968 with the grasses on the ranch described
by Savory as becoming “moribund” (page 211), with “bare
spots opening up” (page 211). In contrast to those claims,
plant species richness on the ranch increased from 22 species
in 1969 to 49 species in 1984, while plant cover increased
from 29% in 1968 to 85% in 1984 [46]. Total grass cover on
the ranch was signicantly higher on ungrazed sites when
compared to grazed sites (𝑃 < 0.01)[47]. ese well designed
studies produced quantitative data showing that the HM view
of the ranch is not the case.
Conclusion. Contrary to the assumption that grasses will
senesce and die if not grazed by livestock, studies of numerous
relict sites, long-term rested sites, and paired grazed and
ungrazed sites have demonstrated that native plant commu-
nities, particularly bunchgrasses, are sustained by rest from
livestock grazing.
5. Is Hoof Action Necessary for
Grassland Health?
A key premise of HM is that livestock can be made to
emulate native ungulate responses to predators by moving
them frequently in large numbers and tight groups. is
promotes very close cropping which is said to benet grasses
and other forage, as well as hoof action that breaks up soil
crusts, increases inltration, plants seeds, and incorporates
plant material, manure, and urine into the soil [6]. Other
than bison in the plains states, the evidence indicates a low
frequency of large hooved mammals in the western USA
during pre-Columbian times [48], so the opportunity for
hoof action to sustain grasslands and deserts appears limited
atbest.IncontrasttoHMclaims,elk(𝐶𝑒𝑟V𝑢𝑠 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠),
mule deer (𝑂𝑑𝑜𝑐𝑜𝑖𝑙𝑒𝑢𝑠 ℎ𝑒𝑚𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑢𝑠),andotherungulatesmay
avoid areas where predators have an advantage in capturing
them [49].Avoidanceisnotthesameasapanickedightor
tight groupings of animals promoting hoof action. Rather, the
major response is greater vigilance and sometimes avoidance
of risky areas. While the presence of wolves (𝐶𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑠 𝑙𝑢𝑝𝑢𝑠)
aects elk behavior by reducing browsing on willows and
aspen [50], snow depth and other ecological needs appear to
outweigh the eect of wolves leading to grazing and browsing
in areas of higher risk [51,52]. We found no documentation of
native animal responses to predators generating hoof action
or herd eect in tight groupings in the western USA.
Soils in arid and semiarid grasslands oen have sig-
nicant areas covered by biological crusts [5355]. ese
are made up of bacteria, cyanobacteria, algae, mosses, and
lichens and are essential to the health of these grasslands.
Biological crusts stabilize soils, increase soil organic matter
and nutrient content, absorb dew during dry periods, and
x nitrogen [53,5660]. Crusts enhance soil stability and
reduce water runo by producing more microcatchments on
soil surfaces. ey increase water absorbing organic matter,
improve nutrient ow, germination and establishment for
4International Journal of Biodiversity
some plants, while dark crusts may stimulate plant growth by
producingwarmersoiltemperaturesandwateruptakeincold
deserts [61]. Some crusts are hydrophobic, shedding water
[60]. Biological soil crusts are fragile, highly susceptible to
trampling [6163], and are slow to recover from trampling
impacts [64]. Loss of these crusts results in increased erosion
and reduced soil fertility. e loss of crusts in the bunchgrass
communities of the western USA may be largely responsible
for the widespread establishment of cheatgrass and other
exotic annuals [23,58,65]. e rapid spread of introduced
weeds throughout the arid western USA is estimated at
over 2000 hectares per day [66], largely due to livestock
disturbance.
e HM assumption that increasing hoof action will
increase inltration has been disproven. Livestock grazing
cancompactsoil,reduceinltration,andincreaseruno,ero-
sion, and sediment yield [6771]. Major increases in erosion
and runo occur under normal stocking when comparing
grazed to ungrazed sites [68,7174]. Extensive literature
reviews report the negative impacts of livestock grazing on
soil stability and erosion [7577]. For example, a study of
wet and dry meadows in Oregon found the inltration rate
in ungrazed dry meadows was 13 times greater and 2.3
times greater in ungrazed wet meadows, compared to similar
grazed meadows [78].
Hoof action is not needed to increase soil fertility and
decomposition of litter. It is well-established that soil pro-
tozoa, arthropods, earthworms, microscopic bacteria, and
fungi decompose plant and animal residues in all environ-
ments [79,80]. Even the driest environments contain 100
million to one billion decomposing bacteria and tens to
hundreds of meters of fungal hyphae per gram of soil [81].
Brady and Weil [80] discuss the importance of mammals
in the decay process, mentioning burrowing mammals, but
not large grazers such as cattle and bison. Removal of plant
biomass and lowered production resulting from livestock
grazing can reduce fertility and organic content of the soil
[70,8284].
Conclusion. We found no evidence that hoof action as
described by Savory occurs in the arid and semiarid grass-
lands of the western USA which lacked large herds of
ungulates such as bison that occurred in the prairies of the
USA or the savannahs of Africa. No benets of hoof action
were found. To the contrary, hoof action by livestock has been
documented to destroy biological crusts, a key component
in soil protection and nutrient cycling, thereby increasing
erosion rates and reducing fertility, while, increasing soil
compaction and reducing water inltration.
6. Can Grazing Livestock Increase Carbon
Storage and Reverse Climate Change?
Among the most recent HM claims is that livestock graz-
ing will lead to sequestration of large amounts of carbon,
thus potentially reversing climate change [2]. However, any
increased carbon storage through livestock grazing must be
weighed against the contribution of livestock metabolism to
greenhouse gas emissions due to rumen bacteria methane
emissions, manure, and fossil fuel use across the production
chain [85,86]. Nitrous oxide, 300 times more potent than
methane in trapping greenhouse gases [87], is also produced
andreleasedwithlivestockproduction.elivestockindus-
try’s contribution to greenhouse gases also includes CO2
released by conversion of forests to grasslands for the purpose
of grazing [86].
Worldwide, livestock production accounts for about 37
percent of global anthropogenic methane emissions and 65
percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions with as
much as 18% of current global greenhouse gas emissions
(CO2equivalent) generated from the livestock industry [85].
It is estimated that livestock production, byproducts, and
other externalities account for 29.5 billion metric tons of CO2
per year or 51 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas
emissions from agriculture [88]. Lower amounts of green-
house gas emissions due to livestock may be estimated by
using narrower denitions of livestock-related emissions that
include feed based emissions only and exclude externalities
[89].
Some suggest that grass-fed beef is a superior alternative
to beef produced in conned animal feeding operations [90].
However, grass provides less caloric energy per pound of feed
than grain and, as a consequence, a grass-fed cow’s rumen
bacteria must work longer breaking down and digesting grass
in order to extract the same energy content found in grain,
while the bacteria in its rumen are emitting methane [89].
Comparisons of pasture-nished and feedlot-nished beef
in the USA found that pasture-nished beef produced 30%
more greenhouse gas emissions on a live weight basis [91].
It is estimated that three times as much carbon resides
in soil organic matter as in the atmosphere [92], while
grasslands and shrublands have been estimated to store 30
percent of the world’s soil carbon with additional amounts
stored in the associated vegetation [93]. Long term intensive
agriculture can signicantly deplete soil organic carbon
[94] and past livestock grazing in the United States has
led to such losses [95,96]. Livestock grazing was also
found to signicantly reduce carbon storage on Australian
grazed lands while destocking currently grazed shrublands
resulted in net carbon storage [97]. Livestock-grazed sites in
Canyonlands National Park, Utah, had 20% less plant cover
and 100% less soil carbon and nitrogen than areas grazed
only by native herbivores [98]. Declines in soil carbon and
nitrogen were found in grazed areas compared to ungrazed
areasinsagesteppehabitatsinnortheasternUtah[84]. As
grazing intensity increased, mycorrhizal fungi at the litter/soil
interface were destroyed by trampling, while ground cover,
plant litter, and soil organic carbon and nitrogen decreased
[84]. A review by Beschta et al. [20] determined that livestock
grazing and trampling in the western USA led to a reduction
in the ability of vegetation and soils to sequester carbon and
alsoledtolossesinstoredcarbon.
Conclusion.Livestockareamajorsourceofgreenhousegas
emissions. Livestock removal of plant biomass and altering of
soil properties by trampling and erosion causes loss of carbon
storage and nutrients as evidenced by studies in grazed and
ungrazed areas.
International Journal of Biodiversity 5
7. What Is the Evidence That
Holistic Management Does Not Produce
the Claimed Effects?
HM is a management system that includes setting goals,
monitoring, and adapting in order to continually move
towards the goals established by the producer [6]. is
more goal-oriented and adaptive management aspect of the
HM system, its promise of environmental benets, and
increased production make it attractive to many ranchers
[99]. However, researchers who have studied HM in South
Africa and Zimbabwe, where Savory originated his theories,
have rejected many of HM’s underlying assumptions and
foundthatHMapproachesresultinreducedwaterinltration
into the soil, increased erosion, reduced forage production,
reduced soil organic matter and nitrogen, reduced mineral
cycling, and increased soil bulk density [82,100,101].
InarecentevaluationofHMbyBriskeetal.[102], three of
its principle claims were addressed: (1) all nonforested lands
are degraded; (2) these lands can store all fossil fuel carbon in
the atmosphere; and (3) intensive grazing is necessary to pre-
ventthedegradation.eauthorspointedoutthatthereare
well managed lands that are not degraded; deserts are a conse-
quence of climate and soils as well as improper management;
and degradation is largely a function of growing populations
of humans and livestock, land fragmentation, and other
societal issues. As to the claim that these nonforested lands
could store all the carbon emissions that humans produce,
the researchers show that the potential carbon sequestration
of these lands is only about one to two billion metric tons per
year (mtpy), a small fraction of global carbon emissions of 50
billion mtpy. ey further point out that these lands would
have to produce much larger vegetation biomass than they
are capable of producing in order to sequester human-caused
carbon emissions and that much of the carbon is released
back to the atmosphere through respiration as CO2.ey
note that grass cover increases dramatically with rest and
intensive grazing delays this recovery; many desert grassland
soils are sandy, so hoof action does not increase inltration;
and biological crusts stabilize these soils and protect them
from wind erosion and carbon loss.
A review of short-duration grazing studies in the western
USA by Holechek et al. [83] included locations in the more
arid western states as well as prairie types. e researchers
found that this grazing system, which is equated with HM,
resulted in decreased inltration, increased erosion, and
reduced soil organic matter and nitrogen. Forage production
and range condition were similar under short-duration and
continuous grazing with the same stocking rates. Under
short-duration grazing, standing crop of forage declined as
stocking rates increased, while bare ground and vegetation
composition were a function of stocking rate as opposed
to grazing system. Grazing distribution was not improved
over continuous grazing and the claims for hoof action
and improved range condition under increased stocking
rates and densities were not realized [83]. Another review
of grazing systems by Briske et al. [103], including HM,
versus continuous grazing concluded that plant and animal
production were equal or greater in continuous grazing than
in rotational grazing systems.
Even though the ecosystems of the Great Plains states
evolved with the pressure of bison, Holechek et al. [83]
and Briske et al. [103] found that HM did not dier from
traditional, season-long grazing for most dependent variables
compared. Studies commonly held up as supporting HM
[104108] used HM paddocks that were grazed with light to
moderategrazing,nottheheavygrazingthatSavoryrecom-
mends. Further, long-term range studies have shown that it is
reductions in stocking rate that lead to increased forage pro-
duction and improvements in range condition, not grazing
system [33,109,110]. While HM advocates allowing recovery
to take place following grazing, recovery can take many
years to decades even under total rest from livestock, but it
does occur [43,111]. Native, western USA bunchgrass species
such as bluebunch wheatgrass (𝑃𝑠𝑒𝑢𝑑𝑜𝑟𝑜𝑒𝑔𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑎 𝑠𝑝𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑡𝑎)
and Idaho fescue (𝐹𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑢𝑐𝑎 𝑖𝑑𝑎ℎ𝑜𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠) are sensitive to defo-
liation and can require long periods (years) of rest following
each period of grazing in order to restore their vigor and
productivity [34,35].
Conclusion. Studies in Africa and the western USA, including
the prairies which evolved in the presence of bison, show that
HM, like conventional grazing systems, does not compensate
for overstocking of livestock. As in conventional grazing sys-
tems, livestock managed under HM reduce water inltration
into the soil, increase soil erosion, reduce forage production,
reduce range condition, reduce soil organic matter and
nutrients, and increase soil bulk density. Application of HM
cannot sequester much, let alone all the greenhouse gas
emissions from human activities because the sequestration
capacity of grazed lands is much less than annual greenhouse
gas emissions.
8. What about Riparian Areas
and Biodiversity?
In the western USA, riparian areas are rare and valuable
ecological systems supporting a disproportionate number
of species and providing many ecosystem services [112].
HowdoesHM,withitsemphasisonhighstockingrates
and trampling, aect these systems? Soil compaction from
livestock is a common and widespread problem in grazed
riparian areas, reducing inltration rates and water storage
and increasing surface runo and soil erosion during storm
events [78,112]. Soil compaction f rom livestock increases with
increasednumbers,asinanHMapplication[70]. Livestock
grazing in riparian areas reduces willow and herbaceous
production and canopy cover of shrubs and grasses compared
to ungrazed controls [113]. e most eective way to restore
damaged riparian areas is to remove livestock [110,112].
We found very little information about total number
of plant, animal, or invertebrate species present when HM
is compared to other grazing methods or nongrazed areas,
and, further, what proportion of total plant species or total
cover of plant species was native or nonnative. Moreover,
we did not see other biodiversity considerations addressed
in any of the published studies investigating HM. Rotational
6International Journal of Biodiversity
grazing systems do not improve range condition and plant
production over conventional grazing systems [83,103], while
stocking rate is considered the most important variable
aecting vegetation production and range condition [33].
Range condition is determined based on the current plant
community composition and production as compared to the
potential natural community [114]. e relative composi-
tion of Increasers, those plants with tolerance for grazing,
Decreasers, those plants with low tolerance for grazing, and
Invasives, those plants occupying a site that are grazing
tolerant and nonnative, forms the basis of the determination
of condition. Higher range condition ratings reect greater
similarity to the native plant community for a site [115]. is
basic concept reects the biodiversity of the native plant
community, which necessarily declines as range condition
declines. Application of HM with its large herd size and
density of use, like other grazing systems with high stocking
rates, must necessarily decrease native plant diversity and
productivity. is aects the animal communities accord-
ingly as habitat structure and production are altered.
A review, by Fleischner [76], of the eects of livestock
grazing on plant and animal communities in the western USA
found that livestock grazing reduced species richness and
abundance of plants, small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects,
and sh compared to conditions following removal of live-
stock. A quantitative review by Jones [77]ofpublishedstudies
of ecosystem attributes in North American arid ecosystems
aected by livestock grazing, compared to ungrazed condi-
tions, found decreases in rodent species richness and diver-
sity and vegetation diversity in the grazed areas. Livestock
grazing-induced simplied plant communities in western
USA arid and semiarid lands have negative eects on pol-
linators, birds, small mammals, amphibians, wild ungulates,
and other native wildlife [20]. Riparian songbird abundance
increases as riparian systems recover aer livestock exclusion
[116,117], while overall biodiversity increases under long term
rest from livestock grazing [46,47,118]. Invasives such as
cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) are favored and increase in
abundance in the presence of livestock grazing [23,65]and
are inversely related to abundance of native perennial grasses
[43].
Conclusion. HM does not address riparian areas and biodiver-
sity with its focus on livestock production, although operators
couldchoosetheseasgoals.Wehaveseennostudiesof
HM impacts on riparian areas and biodiversity, although
livestock grazing impacts on riparian areas and biodiversity
have been well documented. Livestock degrade riparian areas
by removal of streamside vegetation, reduction of cover and
food for sh and wildlife, and soil compaction, erosion, and
sedimentation. ese impacts lead to loss of native sh and
wildlife populations. Studies in areas from which livestock
have been removed demonstrate increases in diversity and
abundance of birds, mammals, insects, and sh.
9. Is Scientific Evidence Important?
Eectiveness studies of HM have been undertaken by
ranchers and farmers who were selected because of their
commitment to HM [119]. In other words, such studies
were neither experimental nor were the participants ran-
domly selected. Livestock producers who may have had
negative experiences with HM were not included in the
studies. Nearly all of the support and conrmation for HM
come from articles developed at the Savory Institute or
testimonials by practitioners. Most of the published literature
that attempts to rigorously test HM in any scientic fashion
does not support its principal assumptions.
Holechek et al. [83] stated that “No grazing approach,
including that of Savory, will overcome the adverse eects
of drought and/or chronic heavy stocking on forage pro-
duction.” ese researchers were also critical of government
agencies for adopting these unproven theories rather than
basing management on “scientically proven range manage-
ment practices and principles” [83] (page 25). Briske et al.
[103]stated,
the rangeland profession has become mired in
confusion, misinterpretation, and uncertainty
withrespecttotheevaluationofgrazingsystems
and the development of grazing recommenda-
tions and policy decisions. We contend that this
has occurred because recommendations have
traditionally been based on perception, per-
sonal experience, and anecdotal interpretations
of management practices, rather than evidence-
based assessments of ecosystem responses. [103]
(page 11).
Briske et al. [102]state,“Mr.Savorysattemptstodivide
science and management perspectives and his aggressive
promotion of a narrowly focused and widely challenged graz-
ing method only serve to weaken global eorts to promote
rangeland restoration and C sequestration.” [102](page74).
Conclusion. Studies supporting HM have generally come
from the Savory Institute or anecdotal accounts of HM prac-
titioners. Leading range scientists have refuted the system
and indicated that its adoption by land management agencies
is based on these anecdotes and unproven principles rather
than scientic evidence. When addressing the application of
HM or any other grazing systems, practitioners, including
agencies managing public lands, private livestock operations,
and scientists, should (1) consider inclusion of watershed-
scale ungrazed reference areas of suitable size to encompass
theplantandsoilcommunitiesfoundinthegrazedarea,(2)
dene ecological (plant, soil, and animal community) and
production (livestock) criteria on which to base quantitative
comparisons, (3) use sucient replication in studies, (4)
and include adequate quality control of methods. Economic
analysis of grazing systems should compare all expenditures
with income, including externalized costs such as soil loss,
water pollution, reduction of water inltration, and carbon
emissions and capture.
10. Management Implications
is review shows that the underlying assumptions of HM
regarding the evolutionary adaptation of western North
International Journal of Biodiversity 7
American landscapes to large herds of hooved animals only
applies to prairie grasslands and that most arid and semiarid
areas of western North America are not adapted to their
impacts. e premise that rest results in degradation of
grassland ecosystems by allowing biological crusts to persist
and grasses to senesce and die has been disproven by a
large body of research. Reliance on hoof action to promote
recovery by trampling seeds and organic matter into the soil
and breaking up soil crusts needs to be considered in the
context of increased soil compaction, lower inltration rates,
and the destruction of biological crusts that normally provide
long-term stability to soil surfaces, enhance water retention,
andpromotenutrientcycling.euseofHMinanattempt
to capture atmospheric greenhouse gases and incorporate
them into soils and plant communities, thereby reducing
climate change eects, is demonstrably impossible because
the nonforested grazed lands of the world do not have the
capacity to sequester this amount of emissions. Even in the
prairie regions of the United States, which are evolutionarily
adapted to large herbivores such as bison, research indicates
that not only does HM not produce results superior to
conventional season-long grazing, but also that stocking rate,
rest, and livestock exclusion represent the best mechanisms
for restoring grassland productivity, ecological condition,
and sustainability. Various studies indicate livestock grazing
reduces biodiversity of native species and degrades riparian
areas, with nearly all studies nding livestock exclusion to
be the most eective, reliable means to restore degraded
riparian areas. Claims of the benets of HM or other grazing
systems should be validated by quantitative, scientically
valid studies.
Conflict of Interests
e authors declare that there is no conict of interests
regarding the publication of this paper.
Funding
Research was funded by the Foundation for Deep Ecology,
Grand Canyon Trust, Kiesha’s Preserve, Western Watersheds
Project and Wild Utah Project.
Acknowledgment
Joy Belsky (1944–2001), Range Ecologist, who made available
a dra analysis of holistic management before her death,
provided us with much of the material presented here.
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... Holistic management is recently applied by landowners of savannah rangelands in Southern Africa and in the USA even though its management scheme has received much criticism (e.g. Carter et al. 2014). Details on stocking rates, allowable use of livestock and amount of rested recovery is individually set and permanently reset by the landowner. ...
... Details on stocking rates, allowable use of livestock and amount of rested recovery is individually set and permanently reset by the landowner. Its adaptive nature is a reason why the effects on the ecosystem and biodiversity are difficult to evaluate in holistic management (Carter et al. 2014;Farrié et al. 2015;Briske et al. 2014). ...
... Grazing rest also raised the opportunity for grass species that are highly palatable and nutritious for livestock to recover and grow evenly. It was shown previously that long term rest from livestock grazing can lead to overall grass biodiversity increase (Carter et al. 2014 and references therein). A resulting species-rich and tall grassland was surveyed at the end of the growing season (May) at holistic managed sites. ...
Article
Full-text available
Savannahs are often branded by livestock grazing with resulting land degradation. Holistic management of livestock was proposed to contribute to biodiversity conservation by simulating native wildlife grazing behaviour. This study attempts the comparison of the impact of a holistic management regime to a wildlife grazing management regime on grass and ground-dwelling beetle species diversity on neighboring farms in Namibian rangeland. Results show that the response of biodiversity in species richness and composition to holistic management of livestock differs substantially from wildlife grazing with a positive impact. From a total of 39 identified species of ground-dwelling beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae, Carabidae) from 29 genera, eight species were found to be indicators for holistic management of livestock and three were found to be indicators for wildlife grazed rangeland. Observations suggest that holistic management of livestock may contribute to biodiversity conservation, but the differential effect of grazing management on species assemblages suggests that livestock grazing cannot replace native wildlife herbivory. Implications for insect conservation An adaptive management strategy such as holistic management used in this study shows the potential to support high beetle biodiversity. Holistic management of livestock thus aspects in favour for a sustainable form of grazing management for insect conservation even though it does not functionally replace grazing by native wildlife.
... It is hypothesized that mob-grazing positively affects soil structure by increasing aboveground biomass, soil organic C, and total N ( Guo et al. 2016 ). On the other hand, mob-grazing has the potential to cause soil erosion by enhancing soil compaction, which negatively impacts soil water infiltration and overall plant growth ( Greenwood and McKenzie 2001 ;Carter et al. 2014 ). Vegetation responds to grazing in both positive and negative ways. ...
... Mob-grazing can have unintended and undesirable outcomes for plant community composition, and this may reduce the resilience of rangeland to climate change ( Carter et al. 2014 ). Shortlived annuals may be stimulated to germinate following the disturbance of mob-grazing and may have negative effects on the resilience of the native perennial vegetation in semiarid grasslands. ...
Article
Mob-grazing involves maintaining high densities of livestock for short periods so that most plants are either eaten or trampled, followed by long rest periods. This practice has been proposed as a mechanism to increase soil carbon (C) storage and range quality. However, mob-grazing has not universally achieved these objectives, possibly because many factors influence the effects of grazing on soil C dynamics and vegetation. This study examines factors that may mediate grazing impacts on soil C by comparing plant cover and the seasonal dynamics of roots, soil variables, and mycorrhizal fungal hyphae in experimental plots treated with traditional grazing, annual mob-grazing or no grazing for 18 yr. Root and soil variables were measured directly underneath a C4 grass, a C3 grass, and a forb up to 5 × during a 13-mo period. Mob-grazing did not influence total soil C, but it significantly increased soil organic matter (SOM), fine particulate organic matter, and nitrogen-15 (δ¹⁵N). Furthermore, mob-grazing increased soil compaction, decreased soil aggregate stability, decreased soil moisture, and tended to increase the abundance of two invasive plant species: Salsola tragus and Bromus tectorum. Soil compaction, soil aggregate stability, root biomass, particulate organic matter, and percent soil C and N varied significantly across seasons and among plant species. The density of mycorrhizal fungal hyphae varied with season but not with grazing treatment. A significant grazing by date interaction in root biomass and soil carbon-13 (δ¹³C) suggests that root dieback and inputs of pulverized plant material with a higher δ¹³C signature could be the source of higher SOM in mob-grazed plots. Compared with ungrazed plots, traditionally grazed plots had higher SOM without the adverse impacts on vegetation and soil properties observed in the mob-grazed plots. No single management strategy is universally beneficial. Range managers should carefully weigh the pros and cons of mob-grazing because, although it can increase SOM in surface soils, it may also negatively impact soil structure and composition of vegetation.
... It is notable that many states, including our standard bearers to varying degrees, have relied on livestock production, including systems aiming to be regenerative (Gosnell et al., 2020), partly because some of their soils, terrain or climate arguably favour that over other forms of land use (Suttie et al., 2005). Yet livestock and feed production, as well as raising concerns about their environmental impact in general (Carter et al., 2014;Garnett et al., 2017), have also encroached on forest or otherwise valuable soils. Conversely, afforestation can damage soils and ecosystems less suited to forestry, or to certain tree species. ...
Article
Full-text available
The need for effective governance of soil resources is critical. This article outlines five levels of national soil governance against which states may assess themselves and highlights those the authors consider to be in the top category. Responding to the question Which countries or political states can be viewed as ‘global standard bearers of soil governance?’ it describes exemplars of national and subnational best practice that, if widely emulated, could significantly improve the condition of land and soil globally.
... What has seldom been examined, however, is the assertion that the stimulation of soil and vegetation productivity by ReGM will also improve the availability and quality of resources and habitats for multifarious flora and fauna, thereby promoting multi-taxa biodiversity; only two instances of soil biodiversity responses were reported in reviews. Biodiversity (species richness and diversity indices) is included as key indicator for verifying the success of ReGM (Savory Institute, 2019) and is valued by regenerative ranchers as a fundamental driver of the ecological and economic sustainability of their farm (Stinner et al., 1997) but little information is available on the effects of intensive, infrequent grazing on different biota (Carter et al., 2014) and what synergies exist and possible tradeoffs will be required to simultaneously achieve high livestock production and biodiversity conservation (Lawrence, 2019). To start filling this gap, this review examined 58 studies (see Supplementary Data Sheet 1-Search strategy) on the positive, negative, or neutral effects on the diversity of soil microbes, plants, invertebrates, birds, and mammals done in North America (26), Africa (17), Australia (10), South America (3), and New Zealand (2). ...
Article
Full-text available
Regenerative grazing management (ReGM) seeks to mimic natural grazing dynamics to restore degraded soils and the ecological processes underpinning sustainable livestock production while enhancing biodiversity. Regenerative grazing, including holistic planned grazing and related methods, is an adaptive, rotational stocking approach in which dense livestock herds are rotated rapidly through multiple paddocks in short bouts of grazing to defoliate plants evenly and infrequently, interspersed with long recovery periods to boost regrowth. The concentrated "hoof action" of herds in ReGM is regarded vital for regenerating soils and ecosystem services. Evidence (from 58 studies) that ReGM benefits biodiversity is reviewed. Soils enriched by ReGM have increased microbial bioactivity, higher fungal:bacteria biomass, greater functional diversity, and richer microarthropods and macrofauna communities. Vegetation responds inconsistently, with increased, neutral, or decreased total plant diversity, richness of forage grasses and invasive species under ReGM: grasses tend to be favored but shrubs and forbs can be depleted by the mechanical action of hooves. Trampling also reduces numerous arthropods by altering vegetation structure, but creates favorable habitat and food for a few taxa, such as dung beetles. Similarly, grazing-induced structural changes benefit some birds (for foraging, nest sites) while heavy stocking during winter and droughts reduces food for seedeaters and songbirds. With herding and no fences, wildlife (herbivores and predators) thrives on nutritious regrowth while having access to large undisturbed areas. It is concluded that ReGM does not universally promote biodiversity but can be adapted to provide greater landscape habitat heterogeneity suitable to a wider range of biota.
... What has seldom been examined, however, is the assertion that the stimulation of soil and vegetation productivity by ReGM will also improve the availability and quality of resources and habitats for multifarious flora and fauna, thereby promoting multi-taxa biodiversity; only two instances of soil biodiversity responses were reported in reviews. Biodiversity (species richness and diversity indices) is included as key indicator for verifying the success of ReGM (Savory Institute, 2019) and is valued by regenerative ranchers as a fundamental driver of the ecological and economic sustainability of their farm (Stinner et al., 1997) but little information is available on the effects of intensive, infrequent grazing on different biota (Carter et al., 2014) and what synergies exist and possible trade-offs will be required to simultaneously achieve high livestock production and biodiversity conservation (Lawrence, 2019). To start filling this gap, this review examined 56 published studies and theses on the positive, negative, or neutral effects on the diversity of soil microbes, plants, invertebrates, birds, and mammals done in North America (26), Africa (17), Australia (8), South America (3), and New Zealand (2). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Regenerative grazing management (ReGM) seeks to mimic natural grazing dynamics to restore degraded soils and the ecological processes underpinning sustainable livestock production while enhancing biodiversity. Regenerative grazing, including holistic planned grazing and related methods, is an adaptive, rotational stocking approach in which dense livestock herds are rotated rapidly through multiple paddocks in short bouts of grazing to defoliate plants evenly and infrequently, interspersed with long recovery periods to boost regrowth. The concentrated 'hoof action' of herds in ReGM is regarded vital for regenerating soils and ecosystem services. Evidence (from 58 studies) that ReGM benefits biodiversity is reviewed. Soils enriched by ReGM have increased microbial bioactivity, higher fungal:bacteria biomass, greater functional diversity, and richer microarthropods and macrofauna communities. Vegetation responds inconsistently, with increased, neutral, or decreased total plant diversity, richness of forage grasses and invasive species under ReGM: grasses tend to be favoured but shrubs and forbs can be depleted by the mechanical action of hooves. Trampling also reduces numerous arthropods by altering vegetation structure, but creates favourable habitat and food for a few taxa, such as dung beetles. Similarly, grazing-induced structural changes benefit some birds (for foraging, nest sites) while heavy stocking during winter and droughts reduces food for seedeaters and songbirds. With herding and no fences, wildlife (herbivores and predators) thrives on nutritious regrowth while having access to large undisturbed areas. It is concluded that ReGM does not universally promote biodiversity but can be adapted to provide greater landscape habitat heterogeneity suitable to a wider range of biota. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.816374/full
... On the contrary, the vertical direction of soil nutrients in GG increased as soil depth increased. This might be because frequent trampling by animals causes litter on the ground which mixed well with the soil (Carter et al. 2014) and then due to the higher SMC of GG compared with FG which facilitated decomposition and the release of labile-C inputs, it prompted a greater growth and activity of microbial biomass, resulting in the decomposition of both residue-C and native C (the C priming effect) (Shahbaz et al. 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Fencing for grazing exclusion and grazing are common land-use methods in the semi-arid areas of the Loess Plateau in China, which have been widely found to change grassland soil organic carbon (SOC); however empirical studies that evaluated driving factors of soil carbon (C) stocks under the different land use are still weak. In this study, we investigated soil physicochemical and soil respiration (Rs) in the fenced and grazed grassland, to study the soil C stock variations and the main driving mechanism of soil C accumulation. The results showed that bulk density (BD), soil moisture content (SMC), and soil porosity (SP) had no significant difference between fenced and grazed grassland. Fencing increased the SOC, total nitrogen (TN), and C/N ratio, and significantly increased the aboveground biomass (AGB), belowground biomass (BGB), and the amount of soil large macro-aggregates in the topsoil layer (0-10 cm), and the soil stability was improved. Meanwhile, grazing increased soil temperature (ST) and Rs. The soil C stock in the topsoil layer (0-10 cm) of fenced grassland was significantly higher than that of grazed grassland. The soil C/N ratio, BD, and MWD explained large proportions of the variations in soil C stocks. Our results indicate that fencing can improve the stability of soil structure, and reduce Rs, then increase soil C stocks, which is an effective way to improve soil C stocks of grassland ecological in semi-arid areas of northwest China.
... Managed grazing has also been identified as a solution in solving climate change (Bogaerts et al. 2017;Fraser et al. 2014;DeRamus et al. 2003;Thorbecke and Dettling 2019;Sadowski 2019;Fleischer 2019), while some authors have also denied its ability to enhance carbon sequestration and help in mitigating climate change (Hewins et al. 2018;Carter et al. 2014). Drawdown (2019) highlighted that managed grazing can be good in land management and can also aid in the sequestration of between one and a half to three tons of carbon/acre. ...
... Mosier et al., 2021;Stanley et al., 2018;Teague and Kreuter, 2020), there remains debate on the scientific merits of adaptive grazing, in part due to limited evidence from large-scale studies and the failure of low sample sizes to capture the broad gradients in management practices and biophysical environments used for cattle grazing (e.g. Briske et al., 2013;Carter et al., 2014;Gosnell et al., 2020;Nordborg and Röös, 2016;Teague et al., 2013). Furthermore, few studies account for detailed ranch-level management practices when evaluating agro-environmental metrics (Nordborg and Röös, 2016). ...
Article
The maintenance of hydrologic function on grazing lands is an important management objective to sustain forage production during low moisture supply, safeguard other ecosystem goods and services and build resilience to a warming climate. Hydrologic function can be influenced by grazing patterns, as represented by variation in the timing, intensity and frequency of livestock use. While rotational, adaptive grazing (a short-duration, multi-paddock grazing system that emphasises plant recovery between grazing events) is growing in popularity and has the potential to influence grassland hydrological processes such as water infiltration, few studies have comprehensively examined infiltration in relation to on-ranch grazing practices. We examined water infiltration in grasslands on 52 ranches (set up as matched pairs) to examine whether adaptive grazing alters water infiltration in the Great Plains of western Canada, as compared to conventional grazing management employed on neighbouring ranches. We also used producer survey information to test for the influence of ongoing nuanced grazing practices on water infiltration rates, over and above the biophysical effects of soil texture, soil bulk density and plant litter, as well as cultivation history and climate. Overall, adaptive grazing, and specifically the use of higher rest-to-grazing ratios early in the growing season (prior to August 1), led to increased water infiltration in grassland soils. Water infiltration was positively associated with increased litter mass under adaptive grazing, whereas higher bulk density (and sandier) soils were associated with decreased infiltration rates. This study highlights the potential of specialised rotational grazing systems using cattle to improve soil hydrologic function in grazed grasslands.
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Volume I of God’s Country, Plunderers of Eden, is a conservation history-cum-memoir of Zambia – and briefly, of other parts of Africa. I have always been motivated by a sense of adventure and a spiritual need for places wild and free and filled with big game. Latterly, I became more focused on the indigenous people who live with wildlife: on Bantu villagers, fishermen and hunters; on the Bushmen, Pygmy, Maasai and Mbororo. The book also deals with my attempt from 2002 to implement my Landsafe framework for the customary and public commons – the chiefdoms and protected areas of Zambia.
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Multi-year studies of plant communities and soils in the Bear River Range in southeastern Idaho and northeastern Utah found reduced ground cover and herbaceous production in areas grazed by livestock when compared to reference values or long-term rested areas. Reductions in these ecosystem components have lead to accelerated erosion and losses in stored carbon and nitrogen. Restoration of these ecosystem components, with their associated carbon and nitrogen storage, is possible by application of science-based grazing management.
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Thoroughly updated and now in full color, the 15th edition of this market leading text brings the exciting field of soils to life. Explore this new edition to find: A comprehensive approach to soils with a focus on six major ecological roles of soil including growth of plants, climate change, recycling function, biodiversity, water, and soil properties and behavior. New full-color illustrations and the use of color throughout the text highlights the new and refined figures and illustrations to help make the study of soils more efficient, engaging, and relevant. Updated with the latest advances, concepts, and applications including hundreds of key references. New coverage of cutting edge soil science. Examples include coverage of the pedosphere concept, new insights into humus and soil carbon accumulation, subaqueous soils, soil effects on human health, principles and practice of organic farming, urban and human engineered soils, new understandings of the nitrogen cycle, water-saving irrigation techniques, hydraulic redistribution, soil food-web ecology, disease suppressive soils, soil microbial genomics, soil interactions with global climate change, digital soil maps, and many others Applications boxes and case study vignettes bring important soils topics to life. Examples include “Subaqueous Soils—Underwater Pedogenesis,” “Practical Applications of Unsaturated Water Flow in Contrasting Layers,” “Soil Microbiology in the Molecular Age,” and "Where have All the Humics Gone?” Calculations and practical numerical problems boxes help students explore and understand detailed calculations and practical numerical problems. Examples include “Calculating Lime Needs Based on pH Buffering,” “Leaching Requirement for Saline Soils,” "Toward a Global Soil Information System,” “Calculation of Nitrogen Mineralization,” and “Calculation of Percent Pore Space in Soils.”
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During the 1980's short-duration grazing attracted much attention based on the claims it would accelerate range improvement while at the same time accommodating higher stocking rates. On many ranches it was contended that stocking rates could be doubled or even tripled while at the same time improving both range and livestock productivity. We will summarize present knowledge on short-duration grazing, focusing on a few recent studies that are fairly complete in terms of evaluating soil, vegetation, livestock, and financial responses over time and space. The managerial implications of these studies and their relevance to Savory's ideas will be given particular emphasis. Reviews of various grazing studies from Africa will be included in our discussion.
Book
Grazing lands represent the largest and most diverse land resource-taking up over half the earth's land surface. The large area grazing land occupies, its diversity of climates and soils, and the potential to improve its use and productivity all contribute to its importance for sequestering C and mitigating the greenhouse effect and other conditions brought about by climate change. The Potential of U.S. Grazing Lands to Sequester Carbon and Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect gives you an in-depth look at this possibility.
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Increasing demands on and and semiarid ecosystems, which comprise one-third of Earth's terrestrial environment, create an urgent need to understand their biodiversity, function, and mechanisms of change. Sagebrush (Artemisia) steppe, the largest semiarid vegetation type in North America, is endangered because of losses to agriculture, excessive grazing, and invasive species. Establishment in 1950 of what is now designated as the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (southeastern Idaho, USA) created the largest existing reserve of this extensive vegetation type. We used cover, density, and frequency data for vascular plants sampled on 79 permanent plots nine times during 45 years to (1) assess long-term changes in abundance and distribution of major species and life forms, (2) assess changes in species richness and plot similarity, and (3) test the hypotheses that plant cover and stability of cover are positively associated with species richness and that invasibility is inversely related to native plant cover and richness. From 1933 through 1957 the area was subject to severe drought, with annual precipitation exceeding the long-term mean only four times. Cover of shrubs plus perennial grasses was 18% in 1950, and the vegetation was heavily dominated by sagebrush. Perennial grass cover was only 0.5%. With elevated precipitation after 1957, shrub cover increased to 25% by 1965, and by 1975 cover of perennial grasses had increased 13-fold. Subsequent fluctuations in cover did not track precipitation closely. Cover and density of major species were often out of phase, and correlation analyses indicated lags of 2-5 yr in responses of species or functional groups to precipitation. Aggregate species richness of the area has not changed appreciably, but richness of shrubs, perennial grasses, and forbs per plot steadily increased from 1950 to 1995. Vegetative heterogeneity also increased, with mean similarity among plots declining from 72% to 40%. Plots having higher species richness tended to maintain higher levels of cover and to vary less in cover relative to their mean level, indicating links between species richness and function. Abundance of normative species was negatively correlated with cover, but not with richness of native species. Thus, adequate cover of native species can render these semiarid communities more resistant to invasion. Maintaining richness and cover of native species should be a high management priority for these ecosystems.
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Pastures at the High Plains Grasslands Research Station near Cheyenne, Wyoming, grazed for the past 11 yr at a heavy stocking rate (67 steer-d/ha) under three management systems, were compared to continuous light grazing (22 steer-d/ha) and to livestock exclosures. Carbon and nitrogen dynamics were greatest in the surface 30 cm where more than three-fourths of the plant root biomass exists. Grazing strategies and stocking ranges imposed for the past 11 yr on this mixed grass prairie did not detrimentally affect soil organic carbon and nitrogen levels. The data, in fact, suggest that responsible grazing enhanced the overall soil quality as assessed by these parameters. -from Authors
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The life cycle and supply chain of domesticated animals reared for food account for about half of all human-caused greenhouse gases (GHG). Emissions from livestock respiration are part of a fast cycling biological system, where the plant matter eaten was itself developed through the conversion of atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic compounds. The extra emissions from landuse for livestock and feed comes to around 2,672 million tons of CO 2e, while livestock generates 37% of human-induced methane. Livestock-related GHGs could be managed by governments through the imposition of carbon taxes, in which case leaders in the food industry and investors would search for opportunities that such carbon taxes would help create. Large organic-food companies might find these opportunities particularly appealing and such companies could establish subsidiaries to sell meat and dairy analogs, possibly exclusive of meat or dairy products.