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Environmental benefits of extensive livestock farming: wildfire prevention and beyond

AuthorsRuiz-Mirazo, Jabier
Issue Date2011
CitationEconomic, social and environmental sustainability in sheep and goat production systems: 75-82 (2011)
SeriesOptions Méditerranéennes : Série A. Séminaires Méditerranéens
AbstractLivestock production systems are progressively shifting towards an industrialized model that is outcompeting extensive livestock farms in regions such as Mediterranean Europe. The objective of this paper is to contribute to the ongoing debate on the environmental sustainability of these changing livestock systems by focusing on two linked environmental issues (wildfires and climate change) and on Spain as a representative study case. In recent decades, wildfires have dramatically increased in Spain. This process is mainly attributed to the decline of traditional rural activities such as livestock grazing, which used to reduce fuel loads and fire risk. To offset this trend, several Spanish wildfire prevention programmes are currently remunerating livestock farmers for fuelbreak grazing services. Meanwhile, the Spanish food chain is increasingly furnished by market-driven industrialized livestock production systems, which are large contributors to climate change. These systems require many external inputs, such as abundant feedstuff, are poorly integrated with crop production and are, therefore, very demanding in terms of fossil energy and other non-renewable resources. From this perspective, it is concluded that environmental sustainability in livestock production systems is closely linked to basing animal intake on pastures and other locally produced resources. This approach constitutes an effective climate change mitigation strategy and can improve forest conservation.
DescriptionTrabajo presentado en el International Seminar of the Sub-Network on Production Systems of the FAO-CIHEAM Inter-Regional Cooperative Research and Development Network on Sheep and Goats, celebrado en Zaragoza (España), del 10 al 12 de noviembre de 2010
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