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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(3)

The sustainable development of grassland-livestock systems on the Tibetan plateau: problems, strategies and prospects

Z. H. Shang A B G , M. J. Gibb C , F. Leiber D , M. Ismail E , L. M. Ding F , X. S. Guo F and R. J. Long A

A State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agroecosystems, College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730020, China.
B Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China.
C Formerly of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, North Wyke, Devon EX20 2SB, UK.
D Department of Livestock Sciences, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, FiBL, Frick, 5070, Switzerland.
E International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, GPO Box 3226 Kathmandu, Nepal.
F State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agroecosystems, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, China.
G Corresponding author. Email: shangzhh@lzu.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 36(3) 267-296 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ14008
Submitted: 20 January 2014  Accepted: 4 June 2014   Published: 26 June 2014

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The Tibetan plateau is the source of most of the major rivers of Asia and has a huge impact on the livelihoods of the population, who have for centuries engaged in traditional herding practices. Sustainable management of the plateau is of critical importance not only for maintaining livelihoods but also because of its vital ecological function. The major problem of sustainable development in these grassland-livestock systems is the conflict between forage and livestock production. Despite considerable investment of manpower, material resources and capital over many years, attempts to resolve the problem have not been successful. The magnitude of conflict between forage and livestock is addressed by presenting 19 resolution strategies based on numerous research data. Each of these strategies is evaluated in terms of how it can be implemented, its potential benefits for livestock production, current progress and the requirement for further research. The 19 strategies have been divided into four topic categories, namely; grassland-forage, livestock, economy and market, society-culture, which cover the basic elements of sustainable development in this pastoral region. It is argued that improved planning and implementation of the proposed strategies must be based on the background investigation of natural and social status of the pastoral region. Particular attention needs to be given to genetic resources and technology in order to ensure the successful implementation of these proposals. In addition to expanding the use of 18 currently practiced strategies, the authors propose a further novel strategy of replacing the current intensive form of ecological migration with a model incorporating two semi-permanent settlements. The objective of this novel strategy is to retain the nomadic element of pastoral husbandry while increasing the temporal and spatial scale of rotational stocking to reduce pasture degradation on the Tibetan plateau. It is argued that these proposals should be urgently incorporated into two national plans for the pastoral livestock industry, and the construction of an ecologically safe shelter zone on the Tibetan plateau, while ensuring a sustainable livelihood of its pastoral residents. Ensuring a successful implementation of these strategies in resolving the conflict between grassland and livestock, and promoting sustainable development on the Tibetan plateau, requires willing support at the level of national investment and policy commitment and from the herdsmen.

Additional keywords: conflict, grassland, ecology and livelihood, livestock, nomadic system, resolution strategies, sustainable development.


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