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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


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Title: Managing for ecosystem services and livestock production: Are there tradeoffs?

item Derner, Justin

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/12/2012
Publication Date: 8/14/2012
Citation: Derner, J.D. 2012. Managing for ecosystem services and livestock production: Are there tradeoffs?. In: P. Murray, (ed.). Proc: 2012 Nebraska Grazing Conference. p. 16-20.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Most all rangelands have traditionally been managed to provide food and fiber through management practices to achieve sustainable forage and livestock production (Dunn et al. 2010). Yet, society is desiring that these lands also be managed for multiple ecosystem services (defined as provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2003; Havstad et al. 2007; Toombs et al. 2010), although valuation remains problematic (Farber et al. 2002; Swinton et al. 2007; review by Gomez-Baggethun et al. 2010). Determining tradeoffs associated with changing management from principally a forage and livestock production-centric basis to blending of production and conservation outcomes remains an open frontier (Figure 1). Compounding the uncertainty with determination of tradeoffs is the reality that provision of multiple ecosystem services from rangelands involves applying management practices on complex landscapes (Boyd and Svejcar 2009). Achieving both livestock production and provision of ecosystem services is difficult given the need to increase production of livestock to feed an ever-expanding world population and societal desires to provide a suite of ecosystem services (wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity, soil health, carbon sequestration and storage, Havstad et al. 2007). Fundamental to this discussion is the stark reality that livestock production is driven by a developed economic market system whereas markets have yet to emerge for ecosystem services, and therefore the benefits of providing these services have yet to be monetized. Moreover, livestock managers realize that there are possible current economic costs to them by using livestock as ecosystem engineers (Derner et al. 2009) to provide ecosystem services through potential lower livestock weight gains, but that these costs may be lessened or even overcome through the valuation of ecosystem services. Without incentives that compensate for this lost income, or developed markets for ecosystem services on which decisions could be made to modify management to emphasize additional outcomes that have economic rewards, this issue will remain problematic for land managers. Here, I will address managing rangelands for multiple ecosystem services within the context of forage and livestock production goals. I will discuss the tradeoffs associated between beef production and 1) provision of habitat for grassland birds (Augustine 2011; Augustine and Derner 2012), 2) greenhouse gas mitigation (Liebig et al. 2005, 2010; Derner et al. 2006a; Morgan et al. 2010), and 3) black-tailed prairie dogs (Derner et al. 2006b; Derner et al. 2009).

Last Modified: 10/20/2017
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