Knowledge for better food systems

Goat grazing, its interactions with other herbivores and biodiversity conservation issues

A study published in the journal Small Ruminant Research notes that many breeds of goat are at great risk of disappearing. A study from the Regional Service of Agro-Food Research and Development (SERIDA) analysed the global situation - the state of different breeds, the multiple implications of their conservation, their interaction with other animal species, and the consequences of goat grazing from an environmental viewpoint. The authors found that the biggest loss in the genetic resources of indigenous goats has been observed in Europe.

Goats have developed in harmony with local conditions of climate, terrain, vegetation, and even pathogens over centuries in many areas, while they have been blamed of causing environment degradation in other ones. The paper summarizes the situation of goat's population worldwide, the status of the breeds and the multiple implications of their conservation, the interactions of goats with other animal species (wild or domestic) and the main issues regarding the consequences of goat grazing from the environmental point of view. It underlines that most of the environmentally harmful effects of goat grazing arise from improper management practices at very high grazing pressures whereas goat grazing can be a useful tool for conservation if managed adequately. Moderate grazing pressures can be compatible with high levels of biodiversity and provide externalities, whereas high intensity at short term can be a valuable tool for weed control. Goat genetic heritage is seriously threatened and requires more studies and greater support from national and international institutions, in parallel with other efforts in rural development, especially for remote areas which hold an outstanding reservoir of livestock diversity adapted to the local conditions and managed by impoverished communities. A multidisciplinary approach of scientists, policy makers, rangeland managers and local communities is required for the design of future sustainable management plans.
Citation as follows:
Garcia, R.R., Celaya, R., Garcia, U., Osoro, K. Goat grazing, its interactions with other herbivores and biodiversity conservation issues. Small Ruminant Research, 107 (2012). DOI: 10.1016/j.smallrumres.2012.03.021.
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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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