Thursday, November 15, 2012

Researchers: Global warming necessitates elimination or significant reduction of livestock

Eight researchers in a new report have suggested that climate change is causing additional stress to many western rangelands, and as a result land managers should consider a significant reduction, or in some places elimination of livestock and other large animals from public lands. A growing degradation of grazing lands could be mitigated if large areas of Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service lands became free of use by livestock and “feral ungulates” such as wild horses and burros, and high populations of deer and elk were reduced, the group of scientists said.  Their findings were reported today in Environmental Management, a professional journal published by Springer...more

Among the observations of this report:

• In the western U.S., climate change is expected to intensify even if greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced.
• Among the threats facing ecosystems as a result of climate change are invasive species, elevated wildfire occurrence, and declining snowpack.
• Federal land managers have begun to adapt to climate-related impacts, but not the combined effects of climate and hooved mammals, or ungulates.
• Climate impacts are compounded from heavy use by livestock and other grazing ungulates, which cause soil erosion, compaction, and dust generation; stream degradation; higher water temperatures and pollution; loss of habitat for fish, birds and amphibians; and desertification.
• Encroachment of woody shrubs at the expense of native grasses and other plants can occur in grazed areas, affecting pollinators, birds, small mammals and other native wildlife.
• Livestock grazing and trampling degrades soil fertility, stability and hydrology, and makes it vulnerable to wind erosion. This in turn adds sediments, nutrients and pathogens to western streams.
• Water developments and diversion for livestock can reduce streamflows and increase water temperatures, degrading habitat for fish and aquatic invertebrates.
• Grazing and trampling reduces the capacity of soils to sequester carbon, and through various processes contributes to greenhouse warming.
• Domestic livestock now use more than 70 percent of the lands managed by the BLM and Forest Service, and their grazing may be the major factor negatively affecting wildlife in 11 western states. In the West, about 175 taxa of freshwater fish are considered imperiled due to habitat-related causes.
• Removing or significantly reducing grazing is likely to be far more effective, in cost and success, than piecemeal approaches to address some of these concerns in isolation.

Study may be viewed here.

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