Other Contributors To Land Deterioration
Animal Farming
And Fire Wood Collection
(Page 1)

In this part of the Land Degradation Series, Professor Nils Nykvist shared his knowledge on how animal farming and fire wood collection have contributed to the degradation of land.


By Professor Nils Nykvist

Animal husbandry

A plant’s defence against being eaten generally takes the form of either sharp spines that act as a mechanical barrier or chemical substances that are more or less toxic to animals.
Under natural conditions, large plant-eating animals do not cause very severe damage to plants, because the number of animals is regulated by predators, and the various herbivores usually prefer different plant species.

In contrast to wild animals, cattle are more stationary and thus graze down the plants so hard that many of the plants never get the opportunity to grow to their full capacity and produce organic matter via the process of photosynthesis (Fig. 9). The land is therefore not fully utilized.
Figure 9. Cattle often graze down the plants so hard that only a small part of the photosynthesis capacity of the plants can be utilized. Vietnam.

Through the animals’ daily walks to and from grazing areas the soil is also compacted and left open to erosion by wind and water. The least damage to soils is made by nomadic livestock that graze over larger areas.

Cattle do considerably more damage to plant communities in the dry than in the more rainy areas, since it takes longer to replace the biomass eaten by the animals. The greatest damage is done by the goats that also eat shrubs and small trees, even pulling up plant roots (Fig. 10). They are therefore usually the last stage of land degradation in developing countries.
Figure 10. Goats also eat thorny bushes and trees, where grasses and herbs are not enough. The green plants in the foreground are toxic to the animals. Pakistan.

It has been estimated that about 3.3 billion hectares of land in the arid regions have been destroyed by uncontrolled grazing [8]. Numerous attempts have been made to control grazing, which means that some areas have been fenced for a time before they are grazed (Fig. 11). If the animals really are fenced off from the area, the results have in most cases been very successful.
Figure 11. Experiments with controlled grazing. Ethiopia.

See the references for this article.

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