Ecosystem management using livestock: Embracing diversity and respecting ecological principles

Logan Thompson, Jason Rowntree, Wilhelm Windisch, Sinad M. Waters, Laurence Shalloo, Pablo Manzano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Agricultural land is a scarce resource globally and will continue to encounter challenges to sustainably increase food production in the face of global change. Adaptations that make use of livestock should ideally incorporate agroecological principles (e.g., improved circularity), while limiting feed-food competition. However, they should also remain respectful of the diversity of ecosystem contexts, availability of resources, and the various social and economic needs of local populations. Herbivores are a natural constituent of the world s ecosystems and have played a key role in the last several million years. As the numbers of wild herbivores have greatly decreased, largely due to human action, the maintenance of such roles depends on the practice of adequate livestock management. This is the ecological basis for sustainable livestock. Well-managed animals function as an integral and productive part of agricultural systems. Among other outcomes, they can convert massive quantities of nonedible biomass (inevitably arising from pasture systems and from growing plants into human food), recycle plant nutrients back to the land, sequester carbon, improve soil health, and offer many ecosystem services. To optimize both environmental impact and food supply, the broad and underutilized diversity that is inherent to livestock systems should be mobilized instead of being suppressed. This diversity can, for instance, be observed in terms of species and breeds, but also in terms of production methods and management strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Frontiers
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • biomass
  • circularity
  • ecology
  • livestock
  • pasture
  • sequestration

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