Pastoralism and biodiversity

What does extensive mobile pastoralism mean for biodiversity and conservation?

Six PASTRES briefings explore how pastoralists can play a role in improving biodiversity, sequestering carbon and protecting the environment.

Read the briefings

The benefits of pastoralism for biodiversity and the climate

Livestock can be good for the environment. It depends on which livestock, where. This briefing sets out the case to recognise the role of pastoral systems and pastoralists in addressing the linked crises of climate and biodiversity.

Why tree planting in rangelands can be bad for biodiversity and the climate

Mass tree planting schemes are proposed as a way to combat desertification, improve biodiversity and address climate change through ‘carbon offset’ schemes. Many of these initiatives are deeply problematic, yet have targeted over one billion hectares of rangelands across the world.

Enhancing biodiversity through livestock keeping

Mobile pastoral systems can create bio-corridors through transhumance routes, disperse seeds, create fertile hotspots or mitigate against fires. This briefing offers eight examples of how pastoralism and conservation can work together.

Going up in smoke: how livestock keeping can reduce wildfires

In rangeland ecologies, fire is important for conservation, but it must be limited and controlled, and this requires grazing. In meeting the challenge of increasing wildfires, supporting pastoral systems is likely to be much more successful than just focusing on fire suppression and
more firefighters.

Rewilding and ecosystem restoration: what is ‘natural’?

What is ‘natural’ and what is ‘wild’ is deeply contested. Rangelands are not simply degraded forests, as some assume. Plans for must include pastoralists and other land users who have created valuable landscapes through use by people and their animals over many years.

Collaborative conservation:
pastoralists as conservationists

Pastoralists and other livestock keepers are too often pitted against conservationists. Pastoralism is not compatible with a style of conservation that encloses and excludes, but extensive livestock-keeping can be central to more people-centred conservation approaches. Unfortunately, a ‘fortress conservation’ approach is still common.

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Pastoral systems in extensive rangelands cover over half the world’s land surface. But conservation and biodiversity agendas are sometimes in conflict with pastoralists.

PASTRES research shows that pastoralists can play an important role in caring for landscapes and wildlife.

Global map of pastoral systems showing different ecological settings.

Climate change and livestock

The dominant picture of livestock’s impacts on climate change has been distorted by faulty assumptions that focus on intensive, industrial farming in rich countries. Millions of people worldwide who depend on extensive livestock production, with relatively lower climate impacts, are being ignored by debates on the future of food.

Read our information sheets on this topic, along with an accompanying report, Are livestock always bad for the planet?