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Pastures and Pastoralism

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Abstract

Pastureland (synonymously grassland) is land devoted to the production of forage for harvest by grazing, cutting, or both—no matter if the plant species are indigenous or introduced. They can be natural (native), semi-natural (managed and dominated by indigenous and naturally occurring plant species), and there is a significant share of pastureland with introduced species. Land is named rangeland, if vegetation is predominantly grasses, grasslike plants, forbs, and shrubs and if it is used for the production of livestock and/or wildlife. Finally, a pasture is a concrete spatial area where farmers keep livestock. Here we understood pastoralism simply as the agricultural activity of animal husbandry, no matter if performed on pastures or without spatial restrictions (nomadism). Estimates of the proportion of the earth’s land area covered by grasslands vary between 20–40 percent, depending on the definition. Those differences are due to a lack of harmonization in definitions (see Allen et al. 2011). The selecting influence of grazers is the main difference to other natural grasslands (e.g., those growing beside natural tree lines). Livestock-grazed grasslands are the most important share of grasslands and occur in all biomes. The prehistoric populations of megafauna had a significant impact on ecosystems in certain geographical areas. Browsing, grazing, or selective feeding by these various species prevented many open landscapes from succession, thus allowing adapted communities to evolve. That is why a high biodiversity, often with rare species assemblages, characterizes (semi-)natural pasturelands. Grazers can form a multitude of vegetation depending on time and frequency of grazing throughout the year, the (livestock-)species including various breeds and its density per land unit. Today, vast pasturelands are overgrazed, causing serious environmental damages. Although some native and semi-natural grasslands are productive, the agricultural increase of productivity can often be achieved by intensification (e.g., by fertilizing or seeding non-native species/breeds). Such “improved” pasturelands tend to be species-poor and provide fewer ecosystem services. In many parts of the world, wooded pastures (woodlands) are quite common, mostly in landscapes, where agricultural intensification is restricted by natural constraints. Here, grazers distinguish a light canopy of trees/shrubs often mixed with grass/herbaceous species on the ground. Some of these systems are extraordinarily important for nature and environmental conservation. Pastoralism was and still is an essential part of humankind’s culture worldwide. It is a cultural heritage and object of investigation for countless studies focusing on the role of livestock for societies. Link: http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199830060/obo-9780199830060-0207.xml

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... Pastoralism could be also viewed as the branch of agriculture concerned with the breeding of domesticated herbivorous animals in rangeland areas. It is a specific kind of animal husbandry characterized by mainly extensive nutrition, care, tending, and use of grazing animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, horses, reindeer, yaks, camels, and llamas (Schoof and Luick 2018). Pastoralism implies active moving of herds and flocks in nature, in search for food and fresh water resources. ...
Chapter
Pastoralism could be defined as a production system, or a type of land use; furthermore, it can get ethnic or cultural attributes, and yet neither of these definitions represents its nature in a satisfactory way, since they do not include all aspects of importance. For instance, pastoral, as an adjective, means peaceful, idyllic, rural, or rustic, while pastoralist as a noun is used to indicate cultural identity of people who practice pastoralism, share a pastoralist background, or are involved in activities related to pastoralism (Krätli and Swift 2014).
... Pastoralism could be also viewed as the branch of agriculture concerned with the breeding of domesticated herbivorous animals in rangeland areas. It is a specific kind of animal husbandry characterized by mainly extensive nutrition, care, tending, and use of grazing animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, horses, reindeer, yaks, camels, and llamas (Schoof and Luick 2018). Pastoralism implies active moving of herds and flocks in nature, in search for food and fresh water resources. ...
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