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For soil redistribution, there was no class corresponding to Step 4. The radius of intensive livestock use around winter camps differed by ecological zone. In the dry desert, livestock need to forage farther from the winter shelter to find sufficient forage, and the opposite is true in the wetter steppe regions. In the mountain and forest steppe, we found few effects of livestock use: only sedge cover mostly Carex duriuscula , a species that increases with grazing was more abundant close to winter shelters and litter cover was lower.

Our steppe plots showed the largest responses to winter livestock use and the strongest gradients. Based on theory, we expected to see only moderate effects of livestock use in this zone. Lower grass cover and higher forb and unpalatable annual cover in the heavily grazed pastures near winter shelters indicate strong effects of livestock use, which corresponds with the high dung density in these locations.

Perennial species were replaced by annuals, creating open gaps in intensely grazed sites near winter shelters. But soil surface characteristics indicate that livestock had no effect on soil loss or erosion in the steppe. Abundant weedy annual forbs, especially Chenopodium album , close to winter shelters may contribute to the higher crude protein Marten and Andersen near steppe winter shelters.

There was less cover of perennial shrub, C. This may be caused by livestock grazing, but also because herders harvest this species for fuel and winter forage in steppe and desert steppe regions in Mongolia Jigjidsuren and Johnson In the eastern steppe, we observed some effects of livestock use. Here, our sample size was relatively small, so our ability to detect these effects is correspondingly limited.

This contrasts with the steppe and desert steppe, where forbs are more abundant close to winter shelters.

These opposite patterns likely occur because the forb cover in the steppe and desert steppe is made up of weedy and sometimes annual forbs, whereas abundant eastern steppe forbs are palatable and thus livestock preferred , like the perennial forb, Filifolium sibiricum. The distribution of this forb species has diminished in the last several decades in eastern Mongolia Tuvshintogtokh We also saw no effect of livestock use on plant connectivity or soil redistribution in the eastern steppe.

There was less grass, shrub, and litter cover and more total forb and annual forb cover in the heavily grazed pastures near winter shelters, similar to the patterns observed in the steppe ecological zone, although these effects were weaker in the desert steppe. Greater annual forb cover close to winter shelters is consistent with high livestock disturbance. However, primary production as indicated by standing crop biomass appears to be intact in this zone. We see two potential explanations. The mountain and forest steppe soums have not been grazed above this level over the long term only in and since , and thus our first explanation is not supported.

The desert steppe soums have been grazed like the mountain and forest steppe, with heavy grazing only recently. We think a second explanation is more likely. The level of livestock effects may simply match the relative intensity of livestock use along the specific gradients we measured in each ecological zone. For example, in the steppe, sheep and goat dung density was 5. In addition, ecological site rarely modified the effects of livestock use on vegetation, and ecological site had minimal effects on vegetation at all and much less effect than livestock use. In the steppe, the cover of palatable perennial grasses and of the grass Agropyron cristatum was lower in the flat, wet sites with high water table than in sandy and rocky upland sites.

This is generally similar to the findings of greater grazing impacts on vegetation variables in moist low, depression sites by Sasaki Our results do show that both wet and dry rangelands used during the winter or dormant season are sensitive to livestock grazing. Recovery may take a decade or more. Step 4 resembles NAMEM and MEGDT class 4 also known as true desertification , where pastures cross a major threshold, changes are hard to reverse or irreversible, and recovery is costly or impossible.

Our data and other recent assessments do not support this claim. Generally, our study puts winter pastures in the mountain and forest, eastern and desert steppes at Step 1 light degradation and the steppe at Step 2 moderate degradation. Clearly, there is no assessment that shows that degradation is as severe or widespread as conventionally thought.

Despite this assessment, there are places where livestock grazing may cause particular concern. In western Mongolia, Maasri and Gelhaus reported extensive stream bank erosion and stream eutrophication following transition to market economy and increases in livestock numbers.

This indicates that impacts of heavy livestock grazing on riparian areas and river ecosystems may be widespread in Mongolia. Riparian systems are known biodiversity hotspots and thus merit greater attention from both science and management. However, they are also likely resilient systems because of the high moisture availability, and they often respond relatively rapidly to changes in management.

We also encourage all concerned not to conflate seasonal removal of vegetation with permanent change. Our empirical field study shows that slow changing variables, including patchiness or patterning of perennial plants and soil movement, can be used broadly as indicators of shifts in rangeland condition as described by steps in our degradation framework. These slow variables are especially important for detecting approaching shifts from Step 3 to Step 4 in our framework, which denotes changes in hydrologic function of the system.

Due to heavy livestock use during the growing season, and their importance for multiple ecosystem functions, riparian pastures urgently need more study. Steppe environments should also be a focus, because they appear to be changing the fastest under persistently high levels of forage use. We think that degradation in Mongolia and perhaps elsewhere is overstated not because the amount of change is incorrect, but for three other reasons.

First, people with different viewpoints interpret degradation differently Reid In the eyes of an ecologist, change that reduces ecosystem function is degradation, as is loss of native or restricted range species. To a pastoralist, degradation is loss of ecosystem productivity that affects their livestock or reduces access to other species like those with medicinal value. Both of these views are valid and important when interpreting degradation.

Second, it is difficult to properly interpret change, from any point of view, in systems with long evolutionary histories of grazing Mack and Thomson , Milchunas and Laurenroth In the central steppe of Asia and Africa, grazers have been part of these landscapes for millions of years, with livestock present for millennia. Degradation from undergrazing occurs when the lack of grazing allows competitive dominants to exclude important species that grazing in Step 1 encourage. Whether the intermediate grazing state in Step 1 is ecologically valuable depends on what kinds of species grazing encourages: are they native species with conservation or livelihood value or cosmopolitan weeds Milton?

This suggests that our concern may be better directed at preventing systems from moving from Step 1 to Step 2, and especially avoiding transitions to Step 3 and 4. The potentially undesirable consequences of Step 0 can also be considered. Our analysis suggests that there is a wide range of grazing intensities and rangeland states in Mongolia, not a uniformly grazed landscape.

Some areas are remote or rocky, less accessible to livestock grazers, likely important habitat for wild herbivores. Other areas are moderately grazed supporting diverse plant species. Others are heavily grazed, supporting livelihoods, but may even support other species, including wildlife, as such grazing hotspots do in Africa Porensky and Veblen Globally, it matters a great deal to local, regional, and national policy making how degraded rangelands are, why degradation occurs, and how extensive degradation is.

Resilient: Dryland Farming in The Semi-Arid High Plains

If extensive areas of rangelands are slightly to moderately degraded Steps 1—3 , then overall, nationwide reductions in stocking rates and aggressive restoration efforts are a very urgent matter and will be expensive to implement Whisenant Claims of widespread severe or very severe i. This is one reason why distinguishing and interpreting the level of degradation is critical. If only limited areas are degraded, then targeted changes in management and stocking are in order, as well as targeted restoration efforts.

In addition, urgent action is needed if degradation is getting rapidly worse in Mongolia. Recent nationwide remote sensing studies of vegetation trends focusing on changes caused by human activities urbanization, mining, cropping, heavy grazing , controlling for the effects of precipitation, show many areas of no change, and also somewhat contradictory results. All of this work suggests that some regions of Mongolia need more policy and management attention than others.

Brian and Lynne wrote their first book on olives in called "Discovering oil - Tales from an olive grove in Umbria. Because of the language barrier they were limited to publications from California and Israel. The book was published by Pulcini Press and has sold nearly copies throughout the world.


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The difficulty with a conventional book is that photographs are expensive so Brian decided to publish a greatly extended book for olive growers with dozens of photos, diagrams and charts to support the text as an ebook. This was published in on a CD at a time when most people were struggling to understand the ebook concept.

The ebook was called "Growing olives and producing oil. The reviews are available in full on their web site www.

While Brian and Lynne came to olive growing by accident they were professional farmers in Australia and consultants to international institutions and national governments on farming matters in North Africa and West Asia. Countries in these regions have a Mediterranean climate similar to South Australia and their experience in developing sustainable farming systems is relevant to development needs of countries in the region. Lynne and Brian wrote "Sustainable dryland farming," published by Cambridge University Press in and "Fodders for the Near East: annual medic pastures," for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United nations.

They also produced a series of farmer training kits on medic pastures and cereal rotations for FAO. At the time these books bucked the push to use more and more nitrogen fertiliser and other chemical inputs.


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That trend has now run its course and there is a growing interest in farming systems that are both productive and environmentally friendly. Brian has decided to tap into his forty years of experience in North Africa and West Asia and produce a series of books that encourage a more environmentally friendly approach while at the as time providing good profits for farmers.

Restoring the Rangeland is the first in the series. In Brian published an ironical account of his life in politics under the title "Roosters and featherdusters. Are you an author? A quantitative visual analysis of Google Earth Imagery was used to systematically locate, characterize and quantify the current extent of rangelands in Afghanistan degraded as a consequence of dryland agriculture.

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Yirdaw E., Tigabu M. et al. () Rehabilitation of degraded dryland ecosystems – review

Climate data were used in conjunction with dryland agriculture locations to establish a climate envelope comprised by temperature and mean annual precipitation to create a geographical mask known to contain dryland agriculture. Within this mask we created a grid of km 2 cells that we analyzed individually to access dryland agriculture extent. Climatic limits to sustainable dryland agriculture and areas of high restoration priority were also assessed as was the distribution of rain-fed agriculture with respect to the location of traditional migration routes for extensive livestock producers.

The extents of agriculture in Afghanistan, at both upper and lower elevations, correlated most closely with mean annual temperature MAT at the upper elevation limits, and with mean annual precipitation MAP at the lower elevation limits. In total, dryland agriculture comprised 38, km 2 of former native rangeland.

Conversion was highest in the northwestern, northern and northeastern provinces of Herat, Badghis, Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Balkh, Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan, with the highest percentage of conversion occurring in Takhar. Uder this MAP value, approximately 27, km 2 of converted rangeland met the need for restoration priority.

Arid and Range Lands Research Institute

Climate projections indicate that Afghanistan will become warmer and drier in the coming decades. Restoration of currently converted rangelands is needed to restore critical grazing areas as is the adoption of prudent range management policies to prevent further land degradation and support a vital livestock industry.

Food security is at stake as the conversion of rangelands to unsustainable rain-fed agriculture may leave large tracks of land unusable for either agriculture or livestock production. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

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Skip to main content. Advertisement Hide. Dryland agriculture and rangeland restoration priorities in Afghanistan.