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Grazing in Future Multi-Scapes: From Thoughtscapes to Landscapes, Creating Health from the Ground Up

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 March 2024 | Viewed by 22369

Special Issue Editors

Department of Agricultural Science, Cente of Excellence Designing Future Productive Landscapes, Lincoln University, New Zealand
Interests: livestock production systems, ruminant nutrition, foraging ecology & behavior, ecological modelling, agroecosystems design
Prof. Fred Provenza
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
Interests: behavioral/nutritional ecology; foraging behavior; behavior-based management of landscapes; community-based local adaptation; wildlife-livestock interactions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Throughout different landscapes of the world, “grazing” herbivores fulfill essential roles in ecology, agriculture, economies and cultures, including families, farms and communities. Not only do livestock provide food and wealth, but they also deliver ecosystem services through the roles they play in environmental composition, structure and dynamics. Grazing, as a descriptive adjective, locates herbivores within a spatial and temporal pastoral context where they naturally graze or are grazed by farmers, ranchers, shepherds, etc. In many cases, however, pastoralism with the single objective of maximizing animal production and/or profit has transformed landscapes, diminishing biodiversity, reducing water and air quality, accelerating loss of soil and plant biomass and displacing indigenous animals and people. These degenerative landscape transformations have jeopardized present and future ecosystem and societal services, breaking the natural integration of land, water, air, health, society and culture. Land-users, policy makers and societies are calling for alternative approaches to pastoral systems—a call for diversified-adaptive and integrative agroecological and food–pastoral-system designs that operate across multiple scales and ‘scapes’ (e.g. thought-, social-, land-, food-, health-, wildscapes) simultaneously. There needs to be a paradigm shift in pastoral production systems and how grazing herbivores are managed—grazed—within them, derived initially from a change in perception of how they provide wealth.

The thoughtscapes will include paradigm shifts where grazers move away from the actual archetype of pastoralism, future landscapes are re-imagined, and regenerative and sustainable management paradigms are put in place to achieve these visions. From this will come a change in collective thinking of how communities and cultures (socialscapes) perceive their relationships with pastoral lands. The landscapes are the biotic and abiotic four-dimensional domains or environments in need of nurture. Landscapes are the tables where humans and herbivores gain their nourishment, i.e., foodscapes. Foodscapes and dietary perceptions dictate actions and reactions that are changing as developed countries grapple with diseases related to obesity and people starve in developing countries. Societies are demanding healthscapes and nutraceutical foodscapes and, paradoxically, some are moving away from animal products. While indigenous species of animals, including humans (wildscapes), have been displaced from many of their lands by monotonic pastoralism, multifunctional pastoral systems can be designed in view of dynamic multiscapes of the future.

The purpose of this Special Issue is to influence future mental and practical models of pastoralism in continually evolving multiscapes. We seek a collection of papers that will cultivate such a shift in thinking towards future models of sustainable multipurpose pastoralism. The contributions will be synthesized to establish how multifunctional pastoral systems can be re-imagined and then designed in view of the integrative dynamics of sustainable future multiscapes. The Special Issue is linked to a Workshop to be held in Christchurch, New Zealand in July 2021 (see https://web.cvent.com/event/3bcbdfc4-ff78-4f6d-804d-7bdedfeb8c8d/summary ).

Prof. Iain Gordon
Prof. Pablo Gregorini
Prof. Fred Provenza
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • grazing
  • herbivores
  • land
  • sustainability
  • health
  • agriculture
  • pastoralism

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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29 pages, 22937 KiB  
Article
Enhancing Multifunctionality in Agricultural Landscapes with Native Woody Vegetation
Sustainability 2023, 15(14), 11295; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151411295 - 20 Jul 2023
Viewed by 751
Abstract
The re-integration of native woody vegetation within agricultural areas has the potential to support multifunctional productive landscapes that enhance livestock welfare and restore habitat for native wildlife. As there is minimal research on this issue in Aotearoa New Zealand, this study aimed to [...] Read more.
The re-integration of native woody vegetation within agricultural areas has the potential to support multifunctional productive landscapes that enhance livestock welfare and restore habitat for native wildlife. As there is minimal research on this issue in Aotearoa New Zealand, this study aimed to identify species of native woody vegetation and propose spatial configurations and site designs to increase multifunctionality on a case study site. The three components of a multifunctional agricultural landscape focused on in this study were (1) enhancing foraging opportunities for livestock, (2) optimizing shade and shelter, and (3) establishing native bush bird habitat. During the first phase, sixty-three suitable species were identified and assigned scores based on the primary objectives and site constraints. This produced four optimized plant lists, one each for the three multifunctional components identified above and one combined multifunctional list incorporating those scores with additional environment and soil scores. The second phase used design thinking methodology to strategically locate these plants within an established case study site. Nine different planting configurations (three for each multifunctional component) were proposed and then, informed by site-specific opportunities and constraints, located on the case study site to produce three individual site designs. Finally, these three site designs were combined to propose an exemplar of a multifunctional agricultural landscape. The results indicate that reintegrating native woody vegetation has the potential to contribute toward multifunctional agricultural landscapes, proposing species and spatial layouts from which further investigation into livestock foraging, increased shade and shelter, and restoration of bush bird habitat can follow. This research advances sustainable land management practices by offering valuable insights into future agricultural landscape design. Full article
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17 pages, 6613 KiB  
Article
Community Perception of Animal-Based Urban Agriculture within City Greenspaces of the Global North: A Survey of Residents near Cornwall Park, New Zealand
Sustainability 2022, 14(19), 12419; https://doi.org/10.3390/su141912419 - 29 Sep 2022
Viewed by 1106
Abstract
The ability of cities worldwide to feed themselves is of increasing concern to Urban Planning and Design professions. In recent years, interest in reintegrating agricultural production back into cities of the Global North has grown, particularly with regard to plant-based urban agriculture. Research [...] Read more.
The ability of cities worldwide to feed themselves is of increasing concern to Urban Planning and Design professions. In recent years, interest in reintegrating agricultural production back into cities of the Global North has grown, particularly with regard to plant-based urban agriculture. Research focused on animal-based urban agriculture however has been notably absent from the literature and case studies set within cities of the Global North. This study aims to contribute to this emerging area of research and seeks to better understand the enablers and barriers to integrating grazing animals within urban greenspace from a ‘neighbor’ perspective. This paper presents survey responses from residents living around Cornwall Park, an urban greenspace in Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest city, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, that integrates a working sheep and beef farm as part of the 172 ha urban greenspace. Findings revealed that the grazing animals were highly valued by the neighboring community with 99% of respondents feeling ‘positive’ towards the inclusion of grazing animals as part of the public park. Our findings have implications for cities of the Global North considering the reintegration of animal-based urban agriculture, providing support for decision-making when defining policies for enabling animal-based agriculture within public greenspace. Full article
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19 pages, 3828 KiB  
Article
Using Soil Sustainability and Resilience Concepts to Support Future Land Management Practice: A Case Study of Mt Grand Station, Hāwea, New Zealand
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1808; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031808 - 05 Feb 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2086
Abstract
Soil acts as the integrator of processes operating within the biological and hydrological landscapes and responds to external disturbances and processes on varying time scales. The impact of any change results in a corresponding response in the system; which is dependent on the [...] Read more.
Soil acts as the integrator of processes operating within the biological and hydrological landscapes and responds to external disturbances and processes on varying time scales. The impact of any change results in a corresponding response in the system; which is dependent on the resistance of the soil system to the disturbance. Irreversible permanent change results when the soil system shifts over a threshold tipping point; with the soil system experiencing a regime shift with associated structural and functional collapse. Climate change is the most important external disturbance or stressor on these systems due to changes in precipitation, temperature and moisture regimes. Our research at Mt Grand is focused on approaches to increasing land use resiliency in the face of environmental change. Our purpose is to select and apply soil quality indices which can be used to assess soil resilience to external disturbance events for Mt Grand Station in New Zealand. We will identify biophysical variations and landscape drivers in soil resilience; and use these results to match land management practices with variations in soil resilience. For example, soils with low resilience will only have land management practices that have a low impact on the soil resource. We selected soil attributes that represented indicators of resistance, used to quantify the capacity of a soil to recover its functionality. We mapped this soil resilience framework against a national database of soil and landscape attributes for Mt Grand Station. The output from this research is to posit a conceptual framework of soil quality indices which relates to soil resilience, and thus to create a spatial map of soil resilience for Mt Grand Station. Full article
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23 pages, 94245 KiB  
Article
Applying Spatial Analysis to Create Modern Rich Pictures for Grassland Health Analysis
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11535; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011535 - 19 Oct 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2286
Abstract
Grasslands are complex and heterogeneous ecosystems, and their health can be defined by the cumulative ability of their components to evolve, adapt, and maintain their integrity in the presence of stress/disturbance and provide ecosystem services. Herein, a design approach is used to generate [...] Read more.
Grasslands are complex and heterogeneous ecosystems, and their health can be defined by the cumulative ability of their components to evolve, adapt, and maintain their integrity in the presence of stress/disturbance and provide ecosystem services. Herein, a design approach is used to generate alternative and multifunctional pastoral livestock production systems that enhance grassland health. As a way of understanding the complexity of grasslands and initiating the design process using systems thinking, rich pictures emerge as a useful method. As rich pictures are subjective views, geographic information systems (GIS) could be applied to improve the veracity of their outcomes, as both techniques are forms of an analytical process. This paper reports the application of GIS to a case study of a high-country farm to generate and combine different thematic maps to create a modern rich picture. The rich picture is a combination of remote sensing data (altitude, slope, aspects, and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)), and on-the-ground data (plant species distribution and diversity and soil chemical, biological, and physical parameters). Layers were combined using a multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) based on the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to create a final rich picture. The results highlight dissimilarities in perceptions of what underpins ‘grassland health’ between researchers in different fields and with different perspectives. The use of GIS produced a modern rich picture that enhanced the understanding of grassland health and allowed for the identification of gaps, values, and possibilities for future research work. Full article
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20 pages, 2899 KiB  
Article
Rangeland Land-Sharing, Livestock Grazing’s Role in the Conservation of Imperiled Species
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4466; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084466 - 16 Apr 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 4501
Abstract
Land sharing, conserving biodiversity on productive lands, is globally promoted. Much of the land highest in California’s biodiversity is used for livestock production, providing an opportunity to understand land sharing and species conservation. A review of United States Fish and Wildlife Service listing [...] Read more.
Land sharing, conserving biodiversity on productive lands, is globally promoted. Much of the land highest in California’s biodiversity is used for livestock production, providing an opportunity to understand land sharing and species conservation. A review of United States Fish and Wildlife Service listing documents for 282 threatened and endangered species in California reveals a complex and varied relationship between grazing and conservation. According to these documents, 51% or 143 of the federally listed animal and plant species are found in habitats with grazing. While livestock grazing is a stated threat to 73% (104) of the species sharing habitat with livestock, 59% (85) of the species are said to be positively influenced, with considerable overlap between species both threatened and benefitting from grazing. Grazing is credited with benefiting flowering plants, mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, crustaceans, and bird species by managing the state’s novel vegetation and providing and maintaining habitat structure and ecosystem functions. Benefits are noted for species across all of California’s terrestrial habitats, except alpine, and for some aquatic habitats, including riparian, wetlands, and temporary pools. Managed grazing can combat anthropomorphic threats, such as invasive species and nitrogen deposition, supporting conservation-reliant species as part of land sharing. Full article
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17 pages, 4731 KiB  
Article
Mechanisms of Grazing Management in Heterogeneous Swards
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8676; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208676 - 19 Oct 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3182
Abstract
We explored the effects of heterogeneity of sward height on the functioning of grazing systems through a spatially implicit mechanistic model of grazing and sward growth. The model uses a population dynamic approach where a sward is spatially structured by height, which changes [...] Read more.
We explored the effects of heterogeneity of sward height on the functioning of grazing systems through a spatially implicit mechanistic model of grazing and sward growth. The model uses a population dynamic approach where a sward is spatially structured by height, which changes as a function of defoliation, trampling, and growth. The grazing component incorporates mechanisms of bite formation, intake, and digestion rates, but excludes sward quality effects. Sward height selection is determined by maximization of the instantaneous intake rate of forage dry mass. For any given average sward height, intake rate increased with increasing spatial heterogeneity. Spatio-temporal distribution of animal density over paddocks did not markedly affect animal performance but it modified the balance of vegetation heterogeneity within and between paddocks. Herbage allowance was a weak predictor of animal performance because the same value can result from multiples combinations of herbage mass per unit area, number of animals, animal liveweight, and paddock area, which are the proximate determinants of intake rate. Our results differ from models that assume homogeneity and provide strong evidence of how heterogeneity influences the dynamic of grazing systems. Thus, we argue that grazing management and research need to incorporate the concept of heterogeneity into the design of future grazing systems. Full article
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Review

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43 pages, 4455 KiB  
Review
Complexity, Crash and Collapse of Chaos: Clues for Designing Sustainable Systems, with Focus on Grassland-Based Systems
Sustainability 2023, 15(5), 4356; https://doi.org/10.3390/su15054356 - 28 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1730
Abstract
Terms such as system crash, collapse of chaos and complexity can help one understand change, also in biological, socio-economic and technical systems. These terms need, however, explanation for fruitful dialogue on design of sustainable systems. We start this paper on Grass Based (GB) [...] Read more.
Terms such as system crash, collapse of chaos and complexity can help one understand change, also in biological, socio-economic and technical systems. These terms need, however, explanation for fruitful dialogue on design of sustainable systems. We start this paper on Grass Based (GB) systems, therefore, dwelling on these terms and notions as review for the insiders and to help interested ‘outsiders’. We also stress the need to use additional and/or new paradigms for understanding of the nature of nature. However, we show that many such ‘new’ paradigms were known for long time around the globe among philosophers and common men, giving reason to include quotes and examples from other cultures and eras. In the past few centuries, those paradigms have become hidden, perhaps, under impressive but short-term successes of more linear paradigms. Therefore, we list hang-ups on paradigms of those past few centuries. We then outline what is meant by ‘GB systems’, which exist in multiple forms/‘scapes’. Coping with such variation is perhaps the most central aspect of complexity. To help cope with this variation, the different (GB) systems can be arranged on spatial, temporal, and other scales in such a way that the arrangements form logical sequences (evolutions) of stable states and transitions of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). Together with other ways to handle complexity, we give examples of such arrangements to illustrate how one can (re-)imagine, (re-)cognize and manage initial chaotic behaviors and eventual ‘collapse’ of chaos into design and/or emergence of new systems. Then, we list known system behaviors, such as predator–prey cycles, adaptive cycles, lock-in, specialization and even tendency to higher (or lower) entropy. All this is needed to understand changes in management of evolving GB into multi-scapes. Integration of disciplines and paradigms indicates that a win-win is likely to be exception rather than rule. With the rules given in this paper, one can reset teaching, research, rural development, and policy agendas in GB-systems and other areas of life. Full article
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22 pages, 3228 KiB  
Review
Multiscapes and Urbanisation: The Case for Spatial Agroecology
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1352; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031352 - 25 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2458
Abstract
The two most significant signatures of the Anthropocene—agriculture and urbanisation—have yet to be studied synoptically. The term periurban is used to describe territory where the urbanising trend of the planet extends into multiscapes. A periurban praxis is required that spatially reconciles urbanisation and [...] Read more.
The two most significant signatures of the Anthropocene—agriculture and urbanisation—have yet to be studied synoptically. The term periurban is used to describe territory where the urbanising trend of the planet extends into multiscapes. A periurban praxis is required that spatially reconciles urbanisation and agriculture, simultaneously permitting urban growth and the enhancement of critical ecosystem services provided by agricultural hinterlands. This paper presents a synthesis of four fields of ecological research that converge on periurban multiscapes—ecological urbanism, landscape ecology, ecosystem services science and agroecology. By applying an ecosystem services approach, a diagram is developed that connects these fields as a holistic praxis for spatially optimising periurban multiscapes for ecosystem services performance. Two spatial qualities of agroecology—‘ES Density’ and ‘ES Plasticity’—potentiate recent areas of research in each of the other three fields—ecology for the city from ecological urbanism, landscape metrics from landscape ecology (particularly the potential application of fractals and surface metrics) and ecosystem services supply and demand mapping and ‘ES Space’ theory from ecosystems services science. While the multifunctional value of agroecological systems is becoming widely accepted, this paper focuses on agroecology’s specific spatial value and its unique capacity to supply ecosystem services specifically tailored to the critical ecosystemic demands of periurban multiscapes. Full article
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14 pages, 436 KiB  
Review
Animal as the Solution: Searching for Environmentally Friendly Dairy Cows
Sustainability 2021, 13(18), 10451; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810451 - 20 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2248
Abstract
There is increasing societal concern surrounding the environmental externalities generated from ruminant production systems. Traditional responses to address these externalities have often been system-based. While these approaches have had promising results, they have served to view the animal as a problem that needs [...] Read more.
There is increasing societal concern surrounding the environmental externalities generated from ruminant production systems. Traditional responses to address these externalities have often been system-based. While these approaches have had promising results, they have served to view the animal as a problem that needs solving, rather than as a potential solution. This review attempts to answer the question: can we breed animals that are more environmentally friendly to address environmental outcomes and satisfy consumer demand? This was done by exploring the literature of examples where animals have been specifically bred to reduce their environmental impact. The use of milk urea nitrogen breeding values has been demonstrated as a tool allowing for selective breeding of dairy cows to reduce nitrogen losses. Low milk urea nitrogen breeding values have been documented to result in reduced urinary nitrogen concentrations per urination event, which ultimately reduces the level of nitrogen that will be lost from the system. The ability to breed for low methane emissions has also shown positive results, with several studies demonstrating the heritability and subsequent reductions in methane emissions via selective breeding programs. Several avenues also exist where animals can be selectively bred to increase the nutrient density of their final product, and thus help to address the growing demand for nutrient-dense food for a growing human population. Animal-based solutions are permanent, cumulative, and often more cost-effective than system-based approaches. With continuing research and interest in breeding for more positive environmental outcomes, the animal can now start to be viewed as a potential solution to many of the issues faced by ruminant production systems, rather than simply being seen as a problem. Full article
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