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A new perspective on the concept of grassland management

A new perspective on the concept of grassland management

Chinese Science Bulletin-Chinese 64(11): 1106-1113

ISSN/ISBN: 0023-074X

As the largest managed terrestrial ecosystem on the earth, grasslands play the irreplaceable important roles in the production of livestock husbandry, the protection of regional ecological environment, and the preservation of pastoral nationality and their cultural heritages. Grasslands are considered as natural resources supporting primarily for food production in the past but increasingly for human wellbeing now. The utilization efficiency and productivity of the grassland resources are strongly dependent upon grassland management practices such as grazing and cutting, forage production, vegetation stability, to name a few. The implication, scope, and significance of grassland resources continuously expand with increasing awareness and improved management of human on grassland values. Traditionally, grasslands are used as the important means of production and livelihood for human beings because they can provide sustainable livestock products (such as meat, milk, and wool) and ecological services (such as carbon storage and biodiversity conservation). At present, grasslands are often referred to as a living capital, and such capital benefit of grasslands is determined by grassland characteristics, management mode, and governance, and thereby grassland management is a central issue for grassland ecosystem sustainability. The traditional grassland management is mainly based on control of livestock carrying capacity or stocking rate, aiming at increasing animal and plant productivity. However, it is considerably difficult to determine a realistically achievable carrying capacity, given that natural grasslands are heterogeneous in vegetation and temporal primary production as a result of environmental fluctuations. As the impacts of environmental changes and human activities increase, it is necessary to carry out targeted grassland management (such as climate change adaptation, biodiversity loss, degradation). Adaptive grassland management emphasizes the maintenance of grassland systematical productivity and ecological sustainability by ensuring "livestock-vegetation balance". That is, the practice of grassland management should conform to the complexity of frequent climatic stresses and intensively human disturbance. When social demand for grassland products and ecological services continues to increase, adaptive management strategy should transition towards multi-functional management strategy. The core of multi-functional management is to exert synergistic effects on the functions and services of grassland ecosystems. Such management involves vegetation, soil, livestock, environment, economy, and society. Only by optimizing and coupling the structure, process, and function of grassland ecosystem and applying auxiliary energy input and artificial regulation can the multi-functional management be accomplished. The development of grassland management practices needs not only strong multidisciplinary theoretical support but also robust technical foundation.

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