James Cook University scientists have found there doesn’t have to be a trade-off between profits and the environment, with a ground-breaking experimental study showing environmentally-friendly cattle farms also make more money.
JCU’s Professor Lin Schwarzkopf said livestock grazing is the most widespread use of land in the world, and in northern Australia it’s the dominant land use across 1.5 million square kilometres of tropical savannas.
“With the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, we examined the effect of heavy, moderate, and variable stocking rates on farms. Over three years in north Queensland we measured profitability, land condition, reptile abundance and species richness.
“We found that overall, reptile abundance was better with more sustainably managed approaches when compared with heavy stocking,” said Professor Schwarzkopf.
She said that profitability and land condition were also better using the sustainable approaches.
“Heavy stocking negatively impacted reptiles and was also the least profitable grazing strategy over the long term, and resulted in the worst land condition.”
She said graziers with a moderate stocking rate or flexible management strategies were better able to buffer the effects of climate variability, and by practicing those approaches they experience better economic outcomes and had a bigger reptile community in dry years.
Professor Schwarzkopf said the results provide crucial empirical data showing the considerable economic benefit to be gained from grazing strategies that maintain land condition and biodiversity.
She said the findings were important beyond farming. With not enough nature reserves currently available to conserve biodiversity into the future, it’s important to do the best we can with biodiversity on other land uses.
“We will need well-managed rangelands, too. We need to have economically viable animal production for the grazier and maintenance of the ecological processes that support biodiversity. We measured the trade-off between conservation and production objectives, and found there wasn’t one in this system.”
Link to paper: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1016/j.rama.2017.09.005
Professor Lin Schwarzkopf
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