Conventional wisdom says grazing damages land -- yet the same land a few cattle or sheep damage today often supported thousands or millions of wild grazers less than 200 years ago.
Overgrazing has been misunderstood for thousands of years, as human-created deserts in the Middle East, northern Africa, India, and North America attest. Obvious "solutions" such as destocking fail to halt land damage. In spite of worldwide efforts to combat desertification, today about 1/4 of the world's land surface is desertified.
New! Animal impact: how trampling benefits grassland ecosystems by Joy Livingwell. Grasslands are adapted to grazing and trampling. Without it, they suffer environmental damage. Photos.
Is overgrazing caused by too much livestock, or something else? Photos. By Peter Donovan, September 2002.
Graze #1: an interactive simulation Our simple pasture management or grazing model has NO predictive value. Its purpose is to let you experiment and see what happens when relatively simple behaviors interact in complex ways over time. February 2003.
Take the overgrazing quiz and test your knowledge.
How can grazing heal land? A short introduction to the basics, with photos. By Joy Livingwell, November 2002.
Grazing as an ecological tool (articles) lists links to in-depth coverage of this still-controversial subject.
Healing damaged land (section). Using livestock to perform the biological functions wild grazers performed in nature helps even severely damaged land recover. Success stories from around the world, with photos.
Grazing management for healthy soils by Christine Jones. Well-managed grazing stimulates grasses to grow vigorously and develop healthy root systems.
Landscapes that evolved with grazers and depend on them to provide vital ecosystem functions can suffer severe damage when rested for long periods.
Landscape brittleness--how "good" management can harm land. Includes photos demonstrating destructive rest. By Joy Livingwell, February 2003.
Brittleness (articles). Explore the difference between areas that heal with prolonged rest, and those that desertify when rested.
The American Sahara: The New Desert Beneath Our Feet describes what happens when insufficient grazing happens in ecosystems that need it. A good article with pictures and links. On Thomas J. Elpel's Wildflowers and Weeds website.