Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are livestock our answer to desertification?

In February 2013, Allan Savory gave a Ted Talk concerning desertification of the earth, and he proposed a possible solution: holistic management and planned grazing. Holistic management and planned grazing is a "rangeland management system  that focuses on the planning and decision-making process to regenerate grassland ecosystem function while balancing economic and social objectives" (Kruger 2012). Basically, through the use of livestock, such as cattle and sheep, the desertified land is replenished through their droppings and feedings. Savory claims that the land needs the animals to be feeding on the desertified ground and leaving their droppings in large herds cyclicly for the land to reverse the desertification. In his talk he claims that this greatly increases crop production, but it also increases livestock populations by 400%. He also made the claim that the newly grown plants will be able to combat climate change by storing the excess methane and carbon, and removing it from the atmosphere. 

The idea of planned grazing seems like it would work in theory, but I am unsure of the actual effectiveness of this process. What I am concerned about is the large amount of methane that will be produced from the large increase in livestock brought to desertified areas. In the paper by Weber and Horst is in favor of planned grazing, yet it provides no actual scientific data to support it. Because there is no concrete data that I could find to support planned grazing, I feel like I cannot be in favor of it over other methods of reversing desertification. I think that more research needs to be done in multiple locations that have been desertified over many years to determine if it actually works, or if it is some sort of coincidence that has been happening. I think it would also be helpful to try other methods of reversing desertification in plots of land right next to plots that planned grazing is being tested on, to compare if planned grazing is effective enough, or if another method is. 

Works Cited:

"Reflections on Savory: The Science and the Philosophy." Organics. N.p., 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 22 May 2013.

Weber and Horst: Desertification and livestock grazing: The roles of sedentarization, mobility
and rest. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2011 1:19.

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