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Robustness and management adaptability in tropical rangelands: a viability-based assessment under the non-equilibrium paradigm

  • F. Accatino (a1), R. Sabatier (a2), C. De Michele (a1), D. Ward (a3), K. Wiegand (a4) and K. M. Meyer (a4)...

Abstract

Rangelands provide the main forage resource for livestock in many parts of the world, but maintaining long-term productivity and providing sufficient income for the rancher remains a challenge. One key issue is to maintain the rangeland in conditions where the rancher has the greatest possibility to adapt his/her management choices to a highly fluctuating and uncertain environment. In this study, we address management robustness and adaptability, which increase the resilience of a rangeland. After reviewing how the concept of resilience evolved in parallel to modelling views on rangelands, we present a dynamic model of rangelands to which we applied the mathematical framework of viability theory to quantify the management adaptability of the system in a stochastic environment. This quantification is based on an index that combines the robustness of the system to rainfall variability and the ability of the rancher to adjust his/her management through time. We evaluated the adaptability for four possible scenarios combining two rainfall regimes (high or low) with two herding strategies (grazers only or mixed herd). Results show that pure grazing is viable only for high-rainfall regimes, and that the use of mixed-feeder herds increases the adaptability of the management. The management is the most adaptive with mixed herds and in rangelands composed of an intermediate density of trees and grasses. In such situations, grass provides high quantities of biomass and woody plants ensure robustness to droughts. Beyond the implications for management, our results illustrate the relevance of viability theory for addressing the issue of robustness and adaptability in non-equilibrium environments.

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