The manner in which human populations utilize livestock influences biodiversity. If livestock are concentrated too much, the competition between wildlife and livestock increases or livestock alter the physical environment making it unusable by some animal or plant species. But evidence is growing that when livestock are used in balance with environmental resources they can actually enhance habitat for wildlife. Much of the driving force determining how people use livestock, and therefore the impact of livestock on the environment and biodiversity, stems from issues of

Table 1 Regional Growth Estimates (%) for

Demand of Meat and Cereals from

1990 to 2020

Region Meat Cereal


6C-93 49-65

17-18 19-33 123-2C6 68-91 141-194 136-161

Developed Developing

Sub-Saharan Latin America

West Asia and North Africa Rest of Asia human population growth and economic development. There are options that can help mitigate the negative impacts of livestock and biodiversity, and those shall be explored in this chapter. For discussion purposes in this chapter we consider biodiversity to mean not the total number of species present in a specific ecosystem, but rather the presence of critical types of species which permit ecosystems to appropriately function. Given this definition, our contention is that if markets and policies are appropriate, then livestock can help preserve biodiversity.

Globally the demand for livestock products is increasing and will continue to grow (IFPRI, 1995). IFPRI (1995) data in Table 1 present regional growth rates in the demand for meat compared with cereals. This growth in consumption of livestock products is being fueled by economic and population growth throughout the developing world. As livestock numbers grow, there are direct implications for the environment and biodiversity as a subset of any specific environment. There has been concern that livestock have had a detrimental impact on the environment. However, we shall see that this image is often incorrect, as much is dependent upon the human population pressure and how those pressures display themselves. In other words, as human population pressures increase, people can use livestock in a manner which is detrimental to biodiversity.

There are three principal types of livestock production systems that interact with biodiversity: grazing systems, mixed farming systems, and industrial systems. All three are found globally. Because these systems are so diverse in structure and environment, it is difficult to make generalized statements about their impact on biodiversity.

Grazing Systems

Grazing systems are defined as animal agricultural systems which are exclusively livestock and have little, if any, crop production grown in conjunction with the grazing of livestock. In these systems, livestock obtain most of the feed from native vegetation. These systems are the most variable and diverse of livestock production

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