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Restoration of Degraded Grazing Lands through Grazing Management: Can It Work?


V. P. Papanastasis, email


Grazing lands are the most degraded land use type in the world, particularly in arid and semiarid areas, as a result of improper human activities such as overgrazing coupled with drought. For restoration of degraded grazing lands, large-scale projects are implemented, which include extensive vegetation improvements (e.g., reseeding, weed control, shrub plantations, reforestations, etc.). Such interventions, apart from being very expensive, often create environmental problems. In situations where the abiotic function of the degraded grazing land has not been irreversibly damaged, application of appropriate grazing management is an ecologically viable solution to their restoration. This is especially necessary for grazed lands with a long history of grazing by large herbivores, including livestock. Excluding domestic animals from such ecosystems may lead to several ecological problems such as loss of biodiversity and devastating wildfires. Appropriate grazing management should include an adjusted stocking rate to the grazing capacity of the restored land, the right kind of animal species, and an appropriate grazing system. In addition, grazing management should be implemented on the basis of a plan that is part of the restoration project. It is concluded that grazing management should become a priority option in restoration of the biotic function of degraded grazing lands, especially in those that have had a long history with the presence of domestic animals.