4.1 Edwards Plateau of Texas
The Edwards Plateau area includes 10.3 million hectares of Central Texas known as the Hill Country and fits into the temperate ecozone for this study. Annual precipitation ranges from 30.5 to 81.3 cm, west to east, with the peak in May. Frost-free days vary from 220 to 260 south to north. The Edwards Plateau is characterized as a deeply dissected hilly, stony plain. Elevations range from 366 to 915 meters above sea level (Hatch et al. 1990). Land in the area is highly desirable because of its natural beauty and proximity to urban areas such as San Antonio.
Extended periods of heavy use by livestock and expanding native deer and exotic ungulate populations have changed the forage species composition, but good diversity of vegetation still exists in much of the region. Because cattle, sheep, goats, and deer have unique diet preferences, greater efficiency of production is possible by grazing combinations of animals (Huston et al. 1981). The Edwards Plateau is 98 percent rangeland; arable lands are found only along narrow steams and some divides. The rangeland is used primarily for mixed livestock (combinations of cattle, sheep, and goats) and wildlife production. The area is the major wool and mohair production region of the United States, providing perhaps 98 percent of the nation's mohair. It also supports the largest white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population in North America. Most ranches are still managed for livestock, but wildlife production for recreational fee-based hunting is important, equalling or exceeding income from livestock in some cases. Exotic big-game ranching is important, and axis (Axis axis), sika (Cervus neppon), and fallow (Dama dama) deer and blackbuck antelope (Antelope cervicarpa) are increasing in number. Management for all resources, livestock, wildlife, and recreation, provides the best use of the rangeland, although other products such as cedar oil and wood products have local importance. Ecotourism is expected to increase in the area with greater focus on bird watching and other natural resource-based activities as well as dude ranches and summer camps.
A typical ranch livestock operation would include a combination of cattle, sheep, and goats in varying percentages; however, about one-half of the carrying capacity is usually allocated to cattle, one-third to sheep, and one-sixth to goats. Cattle breeds range from straight Bos taurus to crosses of Bos taurus and Bos indicus.
Sheep breeds include Rambouillet, while angora goats are used for production of mohair with expanded use of Spanish-type meat goats in recent years. The vegetation of the region is particularly suited to combination stocking, with excellent browse species high in crude protein content available for goats, many perennial and annual forbs of excellent nutritional quality for sheep, and a combination of tall-, mid- and shortgrasses for cattle and sheep. Goats perform an important brush management function in the Edwards Plateau. The region is relatively free from livestock diseases, and normal preventive programs of calfhood vaccinations are effective.
A typical operating ranch unit in the Edwards Plateau is 1,489 hectares. The ranch would be stocked with 103 cows, 460 sheep, and 210 goats. On an animal unit basis, this would be 230 animal units, with 45 percent cows, 40 percent sheep, and 15 percent goats. There would be expectation of a 90 percent calf crop, 100 percent lamb crop, and 50 percent kid crop (angora goats) (Texas Agri. Ext. Ser. 1991). Many bona fide ranch operators in the area own their land, often through inheritance, and do not have interest payments on land cost. The typical ranch unit produces a modest but comfortable living from the land, and ranchers often use other income sources in addition to livestock. For example, the sale of firewood has potential to significantly supplement income. Some ranchers in the area have commercial stands of cedar (Juniperus ashei) valuable for fence posts. There are cedar oil mills in the region that use the old stumps from previously cut cedar trees to render a valuable oil product. Some ranches derive income of up to $18 or more per hectare from the combination of white-tailed deer and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) leases.
Range condition in the Edwards Plateau is below the average for nonfederal rangeland of the U.S. For example, range condition in the Edwards in 1987 was 0.9 percent excellent, 10.0 percent good, 76.8 percent fair, and 12.3 percent poor compared to 3 percent excellent, 30 percent good, 47 percent fair, and 14 percent poor for nonfederal U.S. rangelands (USDA NRCS 1987). Recommended stocking rate for a typical Low Stony Hill range site in the midrange of fair condition would be 7.89 hectares per animal unit yearlong. Thus, stock density is low except on ranches using 1-herd, multiple-pasture grazing systems. Most ranches use continuous grazing or decision deferments. Among formal grazing systems, rotation-deferred grazing, such as the 4-pasture, 3-herd, 12-months graze, 4-months rest Merrill system, is commonly used.
Problems in the Edwards Plateau that impact the traditional use of the land for livestock production and wildlife include predation, primarily on sheep and goats, artificially high land values due to recreational demand, and removal of the support price for wool and mohair. Predators include coyotes (Canis latrans), feral hogs (Sus scrofa), eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), bobcats (Lynx rufus), and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). An occasional mountain lion or cougar (Felis concolor) traverses part of the region. These predatory animals can cause substantial losses in sheep and goats, and the region has a long history of aggressive predator control, including government-assisted programs.
Summary and Interpretations
The highly sought-after land of the Edwards Plateau has caused prices to increase to levels that limit its potential for use in an economically viable agricultural venture. Many who purchase land in the region are people with nonagricultural sources of income and who want the resources primarily for aesthetic value, hunting and recreation, and life-style. Bona fide ranchers also purchase land to add to ongoing enterprises when they can, but for a quarter century, through the peak of land values and continuing to current times, prices have restricted availability of the land to livestock operators. There has been some easing of prices in recent years, but the problem is still general.
The full impact of loss of government price supports for wool and mohair has yet to be seen; however, it is likely that these animals may be at least temporarily reduced in economic efficiency. If so, this reduction would impact the overall efficiency of combination stocking to which the Edwards Plateau is so well suited. The loss of goats alone would have significant ramifications on suppression of woody plants.
The Edwards Plateau, by virtue of the severe limitations of soils and topography on the vast majority of the land area, will continue to be used appropriately as rangeland for the purpose of converting a high quality, diverse vegetation into meat and hair products. The attractiveness of the region for hunting and recreation will hold at the current level or increase, depending in large part on state and national economy and disposable income. There is reason to believe that range condition will remain stable or perhaps improve slightly over time. However, this situation is contingent upon the continuing increase of cedar and mesquite receiving attention and application of brush-control methods where necessary in order to prevent further resource degradation. Mature cedar is related to critical habitat for an endangered bird species and has been under scrutiny of private and public natural resource organizations. Limitation on the removal of cedar stands by regulation for habitat preservation could have an impact on range condition in the future. The desire for fire suppression by environmentalists and life-style landholders may also constrain the use of fire as a cedar-control practice. The Edwards Plateau is also the recharge zone of fractured limestone for the Edwards aquifer that is of major importance to the city of San Antonio and surrounding municipalities as well as irrigated farmers in the area. The demand for water will bring increasing pressure on landowners in the region to manipulate vegetation in ways that influence hydrologic properties of the watershed.
While the threat of overutilization of range vegetation resources and subsequent site deterioration is always present, there does not appear to be eminent danger of increased degradation that will contribute to significant soil erosion or other environmental concerns. While there is a trend of increasing woody plant infestation, since the canopy cover of trees and shrubs provide interception and dissipation of raindrop energy and enhanced infiltration due to increased soil organic matter content and lower soil bulk density. Although the composition of the region's vegetation has changed from climax, there is a level of stability that does not promote environmental degradation through continued use of the land for grazing-based enterprises. Stocking rates are low enough and grazing practices extensive enough in the region so that no significant concentrations of manure should occur that will increase problems under the current land management scenarios. Moreover, cattle population in the region has declined by 9 percent during the period 1976-95, and sheep population has declined by 35 percent during the same period (Texas Livestock Statistics 1994). Goats have increased slightly during the same period.
The region does not lend itself to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) defined as a point source of pollution if the surface area where the livestock are confined cannot sustain vegetation and if it contains more than 1,000 animal units, or if there is a nonzero probability that the livestock will discharge into water of the U.S. Therefore, it is improbable that the Edwards Plateau will ever sustain significant numbers of other than nonpoint sources of pollution related to livestock operations. The greatest risk for increase in pollution is from sediment. The application of good range management practices, including grazing management and vegetation manipulation (particularly cedar control) across the region is the best solution to pollution control.
4.2 Mongolian Plateau
The Mongolian Plateau of Central Asia encompasses over 240 million hectares of grazingland in Mongolia and the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Animal husbandry has been the dominant agricultural activity for millenia. Cattle, sheep, goats, horses, yak, and camels, as well as wild herbivores, have harvested forage and browse from natural vegetation communities.
Throughout this long history of grazing on the Mongolian Plateau, ecological instability that occurred prior to the modern era usually was induced by natural causes such as drought, and had only relatively short term impacts on ecological equilibrium of grazingland ecosystems. An important factor in maintaining ecological stability of grazingland was the use of adaptive rather than disruptive livestock grazing management strategies. Adaptive grazing management strategies of the traditional Mongolian pastoral livestock production system were based on flexible and mobile use of grazinglands by environmentally adapted livestock (Purev 1990).
4.2.1 Characteristics of the Mongolian Plateau
The Mongolian Plateau, because of its location in the center of the Asian Continent, is by nature cold and arid. Steppe grazingland has been dry land since the Paleozoic (540 mil.years BP), arid since the Cretaceous Age (100 mil. years BP) and increasingly arid since the Neocene. Continental climatic conditions have favoured development of extensive grass and shrub steppe grazingland. Important environmental factors influencing stability and resilience of grazed ecosystems are the amount and timing of precipitation, temperature, soils and livestock grazing intensity. Grazingland is primarily arid or semi-arid steppe and accordingly is subject to drought, wind, variable temperatures and a short growing season. The geographic boundary between temperate agricultural China and steppe grazingland of the Mongolian Plateau is both a temperature and rainfall boundary with the southern limit of steppe also the northern limit of rainfall reliability (Murphey 1989).
Monsoon winds are a major climatic influence in the region (Nuttonson 1947). During May and June, winds shift from the Pacific Ocean to Central Asia and bring precipitation in the form of cyclonic and convection storms. Approximately 2/3 of total precipitation and almost all growth of vegetation occurs during the May to September period. In September, winds shift to the northeast and bring cold temperatures, dust and little or no moisture from the dry and extremely cold regions of Siberia. Livestock production using non-adaptive grazing management strategies under these conditions increase the amount of risk and the potential that natural conditions will adversely affect livestock production activities and that livestock grazing, in turn, will adversely impact long term ecological stability of grazingland ecosystems.
Composition of grazingland vegetation and the temporal and spatial distribution of annual forage standing crop are important factors regulating livestock production. Natural vegetation communities are mesophytic or xerophytic. Flora consists of over 5000 species of plants, most of which are grasses, and 200 are considered to be highly palatable to livestock (Grubov 1969).
The major vegetation types characterizing grazingland of the Mongolian Plateau are forest and meadow steppe with high annual standing crop (3500 to 4000 kg/ha), grass steppe with moderate annual standing crop (1500 to 3000 kg/ha), desert steppe with low annual standing crop (375 to 1500 kg/ha) and desert with low annual standing crop comprised primarily of browse from shrubs (Danagro 1992). LGT vegetation communities characteristically have seasonal vegetation growth, relatively low productivity and spatially dispersed annual forage standing crop. Consequently, harvest of vegetation is most efficiently accomplished using highly mobile livestock and flexible grazing management strategies.
22.214.171.124 Natural Regions
Six definable natural regions that have different topography, elevation, temperature, rainfall distribution, soils, and vegetation form the basis of grazingland resources of the Mongolian Plateau. These are alpine tundra, mountain taiga, mountain steppe and forest, grass steppe, desert steppe and desert. The six natural regions can be further separated into sub-regions that provide a variety of habitat and conditions for livestock and wild herbivores.
126.96.36.199 Ecological Relationships
On the Mongolian Plateau, quantitative ecological theory may not adequately describe the relationship between livestock grazing and ecological condition of vegetation. Considerable evidence is being accumulated in North America, Africa and Australia that these assumptions are not accurate for all or even the majority of grazed ecosystems (Archer and Smeins, 1992). The long history of pastoral livestock grazing precludes the recognition of climax plant communities in most regional ecosystems. Most plant species have evolved with livestock herbivory and are tolerant or resistant to grazing impacts. There is also evidence that regional ecosystems are characterized by multiple steady state equilibriums rather than a single steady state equilibrium, i.e, that if the factor causing ecological degradation is sufficiently severe to destroy plant community composition and structure, soil erosion will be such that a new steady state equilibrium of plants and soil will be achieved rather than secondary succession to the original climax community on removal of the factor causing degradation.
Temperate vegetation communities on the Mongolian Plateau tend to be ecologically stable if livestock production is based on extensive grazing management strategies similar to the strategy used in the traditional Mongolian pastoral livestock production system. The loss of ecological stability and vegetation community successional movement towards a steady state threshhold is generally indicated by soil erosion and changes in vegetation composition and structure. Consequently, management of livestock using an extensive grazing management strategy should focus on maintaining the current ecological stability of regional and local ecosystems. Grazing management rather than costly inputs and activities designed to increase livestock offtake and exploit grazingland resources is the objective of grazing management strategies. In the Mongolian grazingland environment, intensive grazing management strategies are usually the cause and the response to exploitative livestock management in the livestock production system.
Grass steppe and forest steppe vegetation types have generally colder temperatures as well as seasonally defined annual precipitation. Less temporal and spatial diversity of vegetation and soils occur in these grazinglands. Annual production of vegetation from plant communities is also less diverse. These vegetation types should probably be classified as generally more equilibrium environments with less spatial diversity but more temporally diverse production of biomass as a result of annual extremes in temperatures (Benke and Scoones 1992).
188.8.131.52 Livestock Production
The distribution and occurrence of diverse natural regions comprising the Mongolian Plateau have provided optimal conditions for extensively managed livestock production systems. Livestock husbandry evolved primarily as a response to climatic and environmental factors. Less risk is involved in livestock production if livestock husbandry practices emphasize mobile and flexible grazing management. In turn, mobile and flexible livestock grazing management is best suited to maintaining ecological stability of Mongolian grazingland ecosystems.
Livestock production systems on the Mongolian Plateau can be described in terms of inputs (labor, feed, equipment, management, etc.) needed to obtain optimal production from the system. The traditional, pastoral production system in these terms required low inputs to obtain low but optimal production. At the other extreme were State Farms which were input intensive. Between the extremes of low and high external inputs were the livestock collectives. Until the mid-Twentieth Century, most livestock were breeds native to Central Asia (Purev, 1990). The rationale for introducing European breeds of cattle and sheep has been the expectation that western breeds would substantially raise yield and offtake.
At the present time, livestock producers in Mongolia generally agree that harvesting forage with livestock is most successful when adapted native livestock are used. The attempt to substantially increase livestock offtake through more intensive management and higher input levels proved to be extremely costly in the short term and potentially non-sustainable in the long term. Harsh environmental conditions that include extremes of temperature, low and variable annual precipitation, spring drought and a short growing season make intensive livestock production a high-risk endeavour. Environmental conditions and the lack of forage and fodder with nutrient levels sufficient for intensive livestock production imposed a high cost on building the physical infrastructure necessary to support increased productivity of non-adapted livestock breeds.
In Inner Mongolia, government emphasis is on converting natural ecosystems to agroecosystems that will supposedly support intensive livestock production systems. In many areas of Inner Mongolia, natural grazingland has been degraded by livestock overgrazing, especially in areas in which extensive conversion of steppe grazingland to sedentary agriculture has occurred. Government strategy in these areas is to increase environmental stability by using a semi-confinement livestock production system whereby fodder harvested from converted grazingland and crop bi-products become the feed resource for livestock feeding and fattening.
184.108.40.206 Grazing Management Strategies
Climate and weather are primary factors influencing forage growth and availability on the Mongolian Plateau. Extreme and unpredictable fluctuation in forage quantity and quality between seasons, years, and places (often on a very local scale) is a characteristic of forage growth. Although growth of forage standing crop may be initiated for some species by March and be of high quality, quantity is insufficient to meet livestock needs until the rise in ambient temperature and precipitation create conditions suitable for a high rate of forage growth in late May and early June. The spring season is the season of highest livestock mortality. Body condition is low because of nutritional stress and lactation demands placed on the animal. In each yearly growth cycle, most growth of forage standing crop occurs between June and August.
Three basic grazing management strategies are currently being used in livestock production on the Mongolian Plateau. (Sheehy, 1993). These are an extensive grazing management strategy which formed the basis of the traditional pastoral livestock production system, a semi-extensive grazing management strategy employed by the collective livestock production system and an intensive grazing management strategy or village strategy employed by state farm and sedentary agriculture production centers. In the modern era, grazing management strategies have been altered from the traditional adaptive strategies, most often in response to political and socio-economic factors separate from considerations of maintaining ecosystem stability. Although ecological principles of grazing management are similar throughout the pastoral livestock production system, grazing management strategies have a regional diversity (Purev, 1990). This diversity reflects the adaptation of traditional livestock production practices and native livestock breeds to environmental and pastoral conditions.
220.127.116.11 Extensive Grazing Management
The extensive grazing management strategy is adaptive to natural conditions encountered in the grazingland environment. Livestock comprising the herd are diverse and include small stock such as sheep and goats, i.e., intermediate feeders with high dietary plasticity (Huston and Pinchak 1991) and large stock such as camel (intermediate feeder) or horse, cattle and yak (bulk roughage feeders) in various combinations according to animal adaptability to vegetation, terrain and environmental conditions. Grazingland is separated into seasonal pastures and grazed according to managerial and production objectives of the livestock producer. For example, small stock graze upland areas of rough terrain during the summer to restore body condition and build body reserves of fat on specific upland plant communities during the autumn. Large stock from which milk products are obtained are kept on lowland areas close to water sources and rapidly growing mesophytic vegetation most suited to large animal bulk roughage feeders. The minimal amount of vegetation harvested as hay from grazingland designated as hayland is used to supplement weaker livestock and alleviate nutritional stress during critical winter and spring production events such as parturition.
Livestock mobility, flexible use of grazingland, and low offtake from environmentally adapted livestock are key elements of the extensive grazing management strategy. Consequently, specific areas of grazingland receive concentrated grazing use by livestock but only for relatively short time periods. Areas of grazingland receiving longer periods of concentrated livestock use such as mesic lowlands have plants adapted to livestock grazing and moisture conditions promoting rapid growth of grazed vegetation.
Winter and spring grazingland is most susceptible to grazing induced ecological instability. Animals are concentrated on these areas as a result of environmental conditions and the need for close human supervision during the important livestock production events that occur during these seasons. Usually the low livestock density associated with extensive grazing management strategies presents opportunities to rest and defer grazing of vegetation on winter and spring grazingland. Less resilient vegetation of the more xeric midlands and uplands has opportunity to escape grazing during and between grazing events. If livestock numbers and density increase to levels sufficient to cause ecological instability of grazingland, adverse climatic events coupled with the resultant increase in animal nutritional stress usually increases livestock mortality. Ultimately, a balance between livestock numbers and grazingland carrying capacity is restored. Consequently, grazingland managed with extensive livestock grazing management strategies usually has moderate to high ecological stability.
18.104.22.168 Semi-extensive Grazing Management
Semi-extensive grazing management strategies continue to rely on the extensive livestock distribution strategies of extensive grazing management but incorporate energy inputs into the system. Livestock comprising the herd remain diversified and generally include small stock and large stock. Division of grazingland area into seasonal grazed pastures is a fundamental strategy of the livestock production system. For example, small stock such as sheep continue to graze upland vegetation with management provided through camps. Large lactating livestock continue to utilize mesic lowland areas during summer and autumn grazing seasons. Animal products for personal consumption and sale of excess offtake continues to be the primary goal of the livestock production system.
A major difference between semi-extensive and extensive grazing management strategies is the increase in energy input into the livestock production system. In order to increase amount of offtake products from either individual animals or from the herd, an attempt is made to overcome environmental or seasonal vegetation constraints to livestock production. Watering facilities are developed or improved in areas formerly receiving specific and occasional seasonal use because livestock lacked access to drinking water. Greater amounts of grazingland vegetation are harvested to be used as supplementary feed during winter and spring periods of forage deficiencies. The well developed semi-extensive grazing management strategy trades off high levels of livestock mobility and flexibility in favor of more reliance on inputs to overcome constraints. The impetus for the livestock production system becomes higher numbers and higher offtake rates achieved by improving access to grazingland vegetation and providing more stored forage for the winter and spring seasons.
Areas of former grazingland used as hayland need protection from grazing animals, usually requiring fences to be constructed. More of the livestock producers time is required to implement improvements which means less time is available for managing livestock grazing. Managed livestock movements are reduced causing a reduction in animal distribution. A tendency of the livestock producer is to introduce livestock with higher genetic potential to the production system and to specialize in kind of livestock to reduce labor demands and increase returns from livestock.
Ultimately, movement of camps to provide optimal management of livestock will be deemed to be inefficient use of scarce labor and time. Tending and protecting hayland and crops grown to produce concentrate feeds will require the livestock producer to have a fixed residence. The pattern of livestock production then becomes one of large livestock grazing lowland and midland grazingland and small livestock grazing uplands during the summer and autumn grazing seasons. During the winter and spring seasons, all livestock graze midland and lowland grazing areas close to cropland and hayland. Daily rations of supplementary feed are provided during at least part of the year. Under semi-extensive grazing management strategies, ecological stability of upland grazingland is high, lowland grazingland stability is moderate and midland grazingland is low because of the impact of yearlong livestock grazing and increased density of animals.
22.214.171.124 Intensive Grazing Management
Intensive grazing management strategies rely on maximum inputs into the livestock production system to maximize offtake from livestock. Specialization of livestock with higher genetic potential rather than diversity of environmentally adapted livestock is a major objective of the livestock production system. The grazing management objective is to obtain maximum grazing value from grazingland without due regard to maintaining long term ecological stability of the grazingland ecosystem. High grazing intensity, over time, changes grazingland plant composition to grazing resistant plants. Incidence of wind and water erosion increase as a result of animal grazing impacts on vegetation and soils. Adverse impacts from grazing such as the forming of a surface compaction layer increase in occurrence and duration (Sheehy 1993). Grazingland that has highest yield of annual forage standing crop when used as grazingland will invariably be converted to marginal rain-fed cropland.
If production remains focused on livestock as the primary production enterprise, cropland will be used to provide high energy supplements to livestock. Grazingland will be intensely used in periods of maximum vegetation growth during summer and autumn. Cropland will be used to produce harvested fodder for livestock during other seasons of the year with grazing of crop aftermath permitted only after crop harvest. In order to improve grazing efficiencies, the livestock producer may seek to increase productivity of grazingland by seeding improved pasture species to allow high intensity grazing by livestock on artificial pastures. Maintaining artificial pastures requires an almost continuous stream of energy inputs such as fertilizer, water for irrigation, periodic re-establishment of pasture stands, and intense livestock management. Grazing management strategies focus on short duration, high intensity grazing systems. Only minimal use of livestock offtake products will be made directly by the producer.
Conversely, if production focus changes to crop production as the primary agricultural activity with livestock considered a secondary production activity, livestock production will receive only incidental energy inputs. Management of livestock grazing is minimal and undersupervised with the grazing management strategy being protection of crops until harvest and high intensity grazing of natural grazingland ecosystems. The supplemental feed provided to livestock is usually low energy crop bi-products such as straw and stems. Livestock are viewed as being supplemental to the primary agricultural cropping activity. Contribution of livestock to the economic well-being of the farm enterprise, while welcome, is not considered as essential.
An intensive grazing management strategy is used either when livestock are viewed as primary producers or when livestock are viewed as being a supplemental agricultural production activity. In either situation, livestock grazing intensity is high and the primary cause of ecological instability in grazingland ecosystems. Lowland and midland grazingland that are too marginal to be converted to cropland will be intensely grazed by all kinds of livestock during all seasons. Uplands that received only summer and autumn grazing by small stock in the extensive and semi-extensive grazing management strategies are grazed yearlong by all stock. In the intensive grazing management strategy, all grazingland vegetation is subject to being grazed by livestock during all seasons. Uplands may retain moderate ecological stability because of the distance from villages or agricultural production centers but natural grazingland of midlands and lowlands will invariably have low ecological stability as a result of high intensity grazing and impacts from concentrated livestock use.
4.2.2 Livestock Grazing Impacts
Ecologically degraded grazingland exists in Mongolia, primarily as a result of livestock concentration and other causes associated with human activities. The general consensus among Mongolian institutions concerned with land use is that approximately 11 million ha of land (7.0% of the total land area) has experienced some degree of degradation as a result of human induced activities. Ecological degradation is attributed to overgrazing by livestock, compaction of soils and destruction of vegetation by vehicles throughout the pastoral area in the absence of a developed road system, and degradation of large areas of grazingland by rodents. Direct degradation of grazingland from livestock grazing occurs, but the greater proportion of Mongolian grazingland, while grazing impacted, has not become ecologically unstable. Degradation of pastureland is less apparent in traditional, extensive pastoral livestock production areas.
Information obtained from the Botanical Institute of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences indicates that some provinces (aimag) have a high percentage of grazingland with moderate and high degradation. Overgrazing is obvious surrounding urban areas and around provincial and county (sum) centers. In these areas, wind and water erosion resulting from destruction of vegetation cover and soil compaction from animal hoof action is obvious.
A trekking system developed under the Collective System to move animals long distances to centralized slaughter facilities has caused localized degradation of grazingland. Herders, depending upon the distance involved, began herding livestock up the trail on a date that would permit delivery to the abattoir on a specified date. The time allowed for movement was sufficient to permit livestock to gain maximum weight during the trek. As livestock converge on the abattoir, livestock are concentrated and degradation of grazingland from overgrazing and trampling occurs. Other causes of grazingland degradation associated with livestock production include degradation of Gobi ecosystems from intensification of livestock production and degradation around bore wells from livestock concentration.
However, the majority of grazingland area remains in relatively pristine condition. Even areas that are most degraded appear to be ecologically capable of responding to livestock management strategies that reduce concentration of livestock.
126.96.36.199 Inner Mongolia
Factors leading to diminished ecological stability in steppe grazingland in Inner Mongolia in the historical era originated from attempts to increase productivity through more intensive agriculture production systems (Sheehy 1992). The process and pattern of instability in grazingland ecosystems was expansion of sedentary agriculture from temperate agricultural regions, especially China during periods of dynastic strength, into semi-arid and arid steppe grazinglands of the Mongolian Plateau. Conversion of grazingland to cropland and concentration of livestock near cultivated areas disrupted traditional extensive livestock grazing management strategies that were adapted to maintaining long term ecological balance. Over relatively short time periods and for a variety of reasons, the shift from extensive grazing management strategies to intensive grazing management strategies caused both ecological and economic instability. As ecological thresholds were reached and crossed, grazingland ecosystems entered a new steady state equilibrium that was unable to support sedentary agriculture. Ultimately, the attempt to move sedentary agriculture and intensive grazing management strategies into the Mongolian grazingland environment collapsed, allowing the gradual re-establishment of stable grazingland environments in the affected area.
Currently, grazingland ecosystems in Inner Mongolia are being subjected to another period of sedentary agriculture expansion and imposition of intensive grazing management strategies in the livestock production system. The latest attempt to increase productivity of semi-arid and arid steppe grazingland by increasing livestock offtake and by using fallow farming techniques is increasingly affecting long term ecological stability of grazingland ecosystems in the region. According to recent reports, a total of 35.6%, or 213,000 km2 of grazingland is ecologically unstable (Neimenggu Ribao 1993). Grazingland capable of supporting optimum livestock production is declining by over 60,000 ha/year and desertification is reported to be expanding by 340,000 ha/year. In east-central Inner Mongolia, deterioration of formerly productive grazingland is widespread and the result of both environmental and socio-economic influences (Sheehy 1993).
4.2.3 Changes in Livestock Production
Grazing management strategies in both Inner Mongolia and Mongolia have been altered from the traditional adaptive strategies, most often in response to political and socio-economic factors separate from considerations of maintaining ecosystem stability. Livestock numbers are at high levels and semi-extensive and intensive grazing management strategies form the basis for grazingland based livestock production systems. The goal of livestock production in both regions has been to increase livestock offtake from grazingland ecosystems. In doing so, ecological stability of grazingland ecosystems and the potential for sustainable livestock production that was the primary attribute of the adaptive, extensive grazing management strategy has been discounted as factors constraining livestock production.
Mongolia attempted to alter traditional grazing management strategies to meet political and social objectives in the 1940's (Bazargur et al. 1993, Mearns 1993). In the 1960's, the collective livestock production implemented exploitative grazing management strategies in response to political and economic objectives of the socialist command economy. State farms were established to develop an intensive agricultural production system that required the use of intensive grazing management strategies. State agricultural institutions promoted grazing management strategies that focused on increasing livestock offtake, livestock development and grazingland use promoting increases in the amount of livestock offtake obtainable from grazingland ecosystems.
The state farm system emphasized intensive, year-long dairy production using Frisian and dual purpose dairy cattle while the Negdel collective system attempted to increase livestock offtake in the traditional pastoral production system by using livestock grazing management strategies that benefitted from inputs into the livestock production system. Grazing management strategies emphasized developments such as watering facilities, provision of supplementary feed and specialized livestock breeds. Both institutions regarded livestock as the primary level of production rather than a secondary production level based on sustainable harvest of forage or fodder from grazingland.
188.8.131.52 Inner Mongolia
Agricultural development in the region has focused on conversion of steppe grazingland that is adapted to supporting livestock managed through extensive grazing management strategies to marginal rain-fed cropland. Conversion of the most productive grazingland to cropland has been accompanied by large increases in number of livestock, introduction of European breeds of livestock as a replacement for less productive but adapted native Mongolian livestock, and specialization in livestock kind (Sheehy 1992). As part of this process, the Mongolian minority engaged strictly in animal husbandry has been overwhelmed by the Han majority engaged in sedentary agricultural activities and intensive livestock production. The reduction in grazingland area and productivity, and the increase in livestock numbers has forced adoption of intensive grazing management strategies for livestock production.
Grazing management strategies in Inner Mongolia have been influenced more by the sedentary agricultural production system characteristic of temperate China. Evaluation and comparison of contemporary grazing management strategies in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia suggests that external factors stimulating exploitative grazing management strategies are more influential in Inner Mongolia than in the Mongolian Republic. These factors included: (a) higher human population; (b) dominance over the animal husbandry minority by sedentary agriculturalists with a different perspective on acceptable exploitation of grazingland ecosystems; (c) an environment with higher, albeit marginal, potential for successful sedentary agriculture production; (d) a large population with high demand for food and fiber in relatively close proximity; and (e) little or no influence by the animal husbandry minority in influencing agricultural policy and decision-making.
4.2.4 Future Grazing Management Strategies For The Mongolian Plateau
The rate and extent of ecological instability affecting grazingland ecosystems in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia has differed considerably even though environmental and climatic conditions and the traditional pastoral livestock production system were relatively homogeneous. In Mongolia, grazingland ecosystems are generally intact and ecologically stable except in specific areas. In Inner Mongolia, the converse situation exists in that grazingland ecosystems are generally becoming ecologically unstable except in specific areas. Evaluation of grazing management strategies in Inner Mongolia indicate that grazingland ecosystems over a wide area are experiencing soil loss from wind and water erosion, annual forage standing crop is declining and livestock productivity is declining.
In both Inner Mongolia and Mongolia, offtake products from livestock using forage produced on grazingland provide a major source of food and fiber for rural and urban populations. Sustainable use of grazingland ecosystems by livestock to satisfy social, economic and dietary needs of the human population of these two regions is both necessary and desirable.
Extensive and semi-extensive livestock grazing management strategies remain feasible strategies for livestock production in Mongolia because grazingland ecosystems are more ecologically stable. However, re-establishing a pastoral livestock production system based solely on an extensive livestock grazing management strategy is a doubtful option (Bazargur et al. 1993). The collective and state farm systems generated social and economic changes and fostered agricultural development that will be difficult to amend. The agricultural development that has been proposed and is currently being implemented will continue to generate change in the livestock production system. A livestock production system based solely on a producer regulated, extensive grazing management strategy, while a necessary component, is not likely to be the livestock production option leading to ecological stability of grazingland ecosystems.
Agricultural policy-makers in Mongolia, because grazinglands remain more ecologically stable, still have the opportunity to select a viable grazingland management strategy. Although undefined at the present time, the grazing management strategy should incorporate an integrated, systematic approach to use of grazingland ecosystems in which the environmental as well as the economic and social parameters influencing livestock production are considered in planning and management decisions. In the dynamic environment characterizing Mongolian grazingland ecosystems, it is necessary to delineate multi-dimensional, dynamic relationships between (a) grazingland ecosystems, (b) livestock production levels and (c) the various goals of the resource manager and/or the livestock producer.
184.108.40.206 Inner Mongolia
The traditional pastoral livestock production system based on an extensive grazing management strategy is no longer a viable option for most grazingland of Inner Mongolia (Sheehy 1992). In some areas, even the semi-extensive grazing management strategy is no longer capable of supporting livestock production because of the current widespread ecological instability resulting from conversion of grazingland to cropland and increases in livestock numbers. Intensive grazing management strategies that are employed as stratagems to increase livestock offtake in a declining production environment are contributing to the widespread ecological instability (Sheehy et al. 1991).
In Inner Mongolia, agricultural policy-makers can continue policies that reduce the amount and quality of grazingland available for the high number of livestock and that increase ecological instability of grazingland or livestock numbers can be brought into balance with grazingland carrying capacity at levels sufficient to allow ecological stability to be re-established. The latter option, which would permit resumption of a semi-extensive livestock grazing management strategy, is unlikely to be selected by the agricultural administration because of the social and political ramifications. It is more likely that the pattern established by previous expansionary periods of sedentary agriculture into arid and semi-arid steppe grazinglands will be completed. However, the scale at which grazinglands will loose ecological stability will be much greater than during the historical period.