The influence of ecosystem goods and services on livestock management practices on the Bokkeveld plateau, South Africa

O'Farrell, P J
Donaldson, J S
Hoffman, M T
Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
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In the biodiversity rich regions of western South Africa transhumance grazing strategies were practised for thousands of years. Today only vestiges of these systems remain with private ownership restricting seasonal mobility. Cultivation practices have created a mosaic landscape transforming the resource base, and we have a limited understanding of livestock management practices and the relative value of all landscape components. Ecosystem goods and services assessments provide a framework which directly links the human economy, natural assets and ecological functioning. The aim in this study was to understand how farmers perceive the availability of goods and services in a heterogeneous environment, whether different vegetation types are providing different services for livestock or the same ones at different times. We use semi-structure interviews to document the current grazing strategies, and then tested perceived benefits by comparing differences in vegetation types according to structure, productivity and biomass, leaf mineral content and phenology. We found that vegetation types differ in their structure and therefore ability to provide shelter. There were limited differences in productivity and mineral content associated with feed and nutrition, and seasonal growth patterns were found to be very similar for all vegetation types. We conclude that livestock management strategies are strongly influenced by ecosystem disservices with farmers avoiding poisonous plants and boggy areas at certain times of the year. Furthermore livestock management patterns are also influenced by alternative production activities which heterogeneous landscapes provide including flower tourism and wheat production. Our study points to the need to consider the full farm economy when determining the links between ecosystem goods and services and livestock production.
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Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
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Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.