As research continues on the relationship between livestock and the environment, and specifically on biodiversity, there is a growing awareness that livestock can have positive impacts on biodiversity as well as a negative relationship. Driving the livestock-biodiversity relationship are the pressures human populations place on the natural resource base. Negative impacts on plant and wildlife communities occur when livestock either outcompete wildlife (usually through high stock rates) or overgraze an area for long periods of time, thus causing permanent damage to a plant community. However, appropriate stocking rates have been shown to improve biodiversity in both the plant and animal communities involved. CAST (1996) states that wildlife habitat has generally improved in conjunction with improving range conditions in the western U.S.
Due to the increased needs of human populations on a global scale, agricultural pressures, including livestock, will continue to mount and potentially deplete some portion of biodiversity. But as de Haan et al. (1997) discuss, it is imperative to have appropriately formulated policies which lessen the negative relationships between livestock and biodiversity and strengthen the positive aspects of the relationship.
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