The biodiversity in agro-ecosystems is decreasing; this is caused by a change in land use. The aim of this study was to enhance knowledge and data on relations between the use of local breeds and vegetation and biodiversity in agro-ecosystems.
Biodiversity in all its three components; ecosystems, species and genes, is valued. The biodiversity in agro-ecosystems is decreasing; this is caused by a change in land use. Agriculture and livestock production are the biggest users of land, and therefore contribute to this loss. Policies and initiatives have developed since, aiming at calling a halt to a further loss of agro-biodiversity. Land that has high biodiversity values is often farmed with use of extensive, often traditional production systems. These traditional systems are generally located on marginal lands, where productive breeds cannot produce or even survive; therefore local livestock breeds are still used. The high biodiversity on these lands has developed in co-evolution with the traditional production systems with grazing livestock and local breeds. However, there is little evidence on exact relations between local breeds and agro-biodiversity. This research was conducted to investigate this topic. It involved a literature review, a questionnaire with European case studies and an in-depth case study in the Netherlands. The aim was to enhance knowledge and data on relations between the use of local breeds and vegetation and biodiversity in agro-ecosystems.
It is clear that land with a high biodiversity value has often evolved in close relation with grazing livestock and in particular local breeds. Maintaining local breeds that are adapted to specific agro-ecosystems would favour both the conservation of local breeds and the vegetation biodiversity, as those are often dependent upon each other. It depends on the grazing and animal management in farming systems, what the specific effects are on the vegetation biodiversity. Which management is chosen, depends on the aim, the environmental conditions and the resources of the farmer. Many farmers would like to use local breeds though this should be economically viable. The enhancement of the recognition and compensation of ecosystem services should be a priority within future strategies and actions. More evidence on relations between local breeds and their effect on vegetation could be a positive stimuli to develop future strategies. Research should be conducted with a multi-disciplinary approach. The in-depth case study in the Netherlands with respondents working in multiple disciplines, seems to be a good method for collecting evidence on this subject.
Student: MJ Kerste
Supervisors: prof dr ir IJM de Boer (APS)
ir SJ Hiemstra (ASG)