Water is one of the essential inputs in livestock production. Indeed, the body of a bovine is composed on an average 50% of water and its milk contains 85% of water.
Livestock in Latin America is located especially in dry ecosystems, and the effect of water utilization for livestock is determinant for land use changes. Consequently, farmers depend on the proper management of land and water (and their sources) for water supply and other essential ecosystem services (pasture, air, etc.) for both the livestock and the human communities.
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Dry ecosystems cover large areas in Latin America, such as the famous Argentina Patagonia, the Chilean secano, shared by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, the Paraguay Chaco, the eastern plains in Colombia and Venezuela and the dry forests of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, among others (click on the map).
In these ecosystems, cattle concentrates around water sources, creating a gradient of changes in vegetation and soil, which is known as the piosphere. The piosphere can have serious impacts as a result of intensive farming patterns, which can result in damage to sources of water and, subsequently, on dry ecosystems in general. Therefore it is essential to identify indicators to measure this impact in order to develop strategies for sustainable livestock production that is also profitable for the local communities.
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This is the goal that frames the study by Veronica Chillo and colleagues, published recently in the journal Ecological Indicators. In their article, Chillo and colleagues propose and evaluate a new method that consists in estimating the response of communities of animals and plants to various grazing intensities. By applying the methodology to an area with livestock in Monte Desert (Argentina) they found that heavily grazed areas suffer greater losses in biodiversity and degradation of vegetation than areas where cattle is rotated.
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This study demonstrates the importance of science in designing methodologies that lead to the formulation of strategies for sustainable management of relevant production systems in the region such as livestock.
To learn more about the dry ecosystems in Latin America watch this video from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh:
Para leer la version en español haz click AQUÍ