Adapting livestock management to spatio-temporal heterogeneity in semi-arid rangelands| Journal of Environmental Management | 2015 | Original research | https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.07.047
Management strategies in rotational grazing systems differ in their level of complexity and adaptivity. Different components of such grazing strategies are expected to allow for adaptation to environmental heterogeneities in space and time. However, most models investigating general principles of rangeland management strategies neglect spatio-temporal system properties including seasonality and spatial heterogeneity of environmental variables. We developed an ecological-economic rangeland model that combines a spatially explicit farm structure with intra-annual time steps. This allows investigating different management components in rotational grazing systems (including stocking and rotation rules) and evaluating their effect on the ecological and economic states of semi-arid grazing systems. Our results show that adaptive stocking is less sensitive to overstocking compared to a constant stocking strategy. Furthermore, the rotation rule becomes important only at stocking numbers that maximize expected income. Altogether, the best of the tested strategies is adaptive stocking combined with a rotation that adapts to both spatial forage availability and seasonality. This management strategy maximises mean income and at the same time maintains the rangeland in a viable condition. However, we could also show that inappropriate adaptation that neglects seasonality even leads to deterioration. Rangelands characterised by higher inter-annual climate variability show a higher risk of income losses under a non-adaptive stocking rule, and non-adaptive rotation is least able to buffer increasing climate variability. Overall, all important system properties including seasonality and spatial heterogeneity of available resources need to be considered when designing an appropriate rangeland management system. Resulting adaptive rotational grazing strategies can be valuable for improving management and mitigating income risks.