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Multiple services delivered by semi-natural lands depend on breeding activities

Multiple services delivered by semi-natural lands depend on breeding activities

Inra Productions Animales 30(4): 351-362

Semi-natural grasslands present opportunities for delivering multiple services but their conservation is tightly dependent on livestock farming. Wetlands and steppes represent two contrasting examples of semi-natural lands for which water in excess or deficit drives both natural habitats and livestock farming. Wetlands deliver environmental services such as support of biodiversity, particularly birds and flood protection. They constitute complex territories as many stakeholders interact to manage water levels. Among them, livestock farmers play a key role by managing those flooded grasslands. Wet grasslands are still endangered by both conversion to improved grasslands or crops and abandonment due to the difficulties associated with exploiting constrained lands. In south east France, transhumant sheep breeding allows to maintain open vegetation that decreases the risk of both fires in the Alpilles hills and avalanche in the Alp mountains. In La Crau, maintaining Sheep grazing appears to be the only way to ensure the durability of the "Coussoul" habitat, the last steppe area in Europe. The crisis of sheep farming, return of wolves to the area and industrial development in La Crau all constitute a significant threat to this breeding system. The maintenance of breeding activities constitutes a challenge for the conservation of areas which have a high heritage value. Farming sectors face natural constraints which make management of the system more difficult and affect the economic viability, resulting in a need for an agroenvironmental policy. An increased market value of quality products, which are linked to production region, appears to be a lever to preserve livestock farming while conserving natural habitats.

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