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A Participatory Method to Produce Biodiversity Indicators

July 25, 2013

An article in the current issue of the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management provide a participatory method to develop indicators of plant and animal diversity that can evaluate many environments yet also be tailored to a specific habitat. The authors concluded that their method encourages group decision-making, and it easily and rapidly tests the response of biological diversity to grazing in an area.

Lawrence, Kansas (PRWEB) July 25, 2013

People have long believed that too many domestic animals grazing in an area can damage soil and vegetation. However, in some areas, like Western Europe, removing livestock can contribute to undesirable changes, including the loss of biodiversity. What land managers need is a quick, inexpensive, and practical way to assess habitat response to grazing removal.

The authors of an article in the current issue of the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management provide a participatory method to develop indicators of plant and animal diversity that can evaluate many environments yet also be tailored to a specific habitat. The key to their method is input from knowledgeable scientists and local managers. These experts cooperatively create a checklist used to rapidly determine the effects of grazing and to produce data crucial to management decisions.

Fewer farmers and ranchers are raising livestock in upland pastures in many portions of the world. Changes to such land affect not just domestic livestock, but also wildlife and both introduced and natural vegetation. Smart land management means understanding the effects of grazing removal on both wild and domestic populations. This article argues that concise methods are needed “to identify locations where grazing is essential to maintain habitat variation and viable populations of rare species.”

The authors created a four-step process and tested it in an area of Scotland where pastoral sheep farming had been reduced. They first invited scientists, government and nonprofit representatives, and land agents to a workshop where participants predicted the effects of fewer grazing sheep. The study team used these predictions to develop biodiversity indicators which they then evaluated at several sites. Finally, they compared the predictions with the study results.

For this study, the team formed nine biodiversity indicators from the workshop predictions. The authors found that fewer sheep allowed more red deer to graze the study sites. Despite the larger deer population, the sites had more short shrubs and taller vegetation overall, an effect predicted during the workshop. But fewer grazing sheep did not always produce the anticipated results. Two results contradicted predictions related to reduced sheep numbers, confirming the importance of field testing.

The authors concluded that their method encourages group decision-making, and it easily and rapidly tests the response of biological diversity to grazing in an area. They emphasized the importance of a well-attended and representative workshop. They also noted that information about past management practices, such as burning, would ensure more accurate field results.

Full text of the article “Reduced Sheep Grazing and Biodiversity: A Novel Approach to Selecting and Measuring Biodiversity Indicators,” Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 66, No. 4, 2013, is now available.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/REM/grazing-and-biodiversity/prweb10965819.htm


Source: prweb



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