Mapping and modelling trade-offs and synergies between grazing intensity and ecosystem services in rangelands using global-scale datasets and models

Nov 17, 2014 | Papers

Determining trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services and livestock grazing intensity on rangelands.

Vast areas of rangelands across the world are grazed with increasing intensity, but interactions between livestock production, biodiversity and other ecosystem services are poorly studied. This study explicitly determines trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services and livestock grazing intensity on rangelands. Grazing intensity and its effects on forage utilization by livestock, carbon sequestration, erosion prevention and biodiversity are quantified and mapped, using global datasets and models. Results show that on average 4% of the biomass produced annually is consumed by livestock. On average, erosion prevention is 10% lower in areas with a high grazing intensity compared to areas with a low grazing intensity, whereas carbon emissions are more than four times higher under high grazing intensity compared to low grazing intensity. Rangelands with the highest grazing intensity are located in the Sahel, Pakistan, West India, Middle East, North Africa and parts of Brazil. These high grazing intensities result in carbon emissions, low biodiversity values, low capacity for erosion prevention and unsustainable forage utilization.

Although the applied models simplify the processes of ecosystem service supply, our study provides a global overview of the consequences of grazing for biodiversity and ecosystem services. The expected increasing future demand for livestock products likely increase pressures on rangelands. Global-scale models can help to identify targets and target areas for international policies aiming at sustainable future use of these rangelands.

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Katalin Petz, Rob Alkemade, Michel Bakkenes, Catharina J.E. Schulp, Marijn van der Velde, Rik Leemans

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