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Spatial heterogeneity stabilizes livestock productivity in a changing climate
- Allred, Brady W., Scasta, John Derek, Hovick, Torre J., Fuhlendorf, Samuel D., Hamilton, Robert G.
- Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2014 v.193 pp. 37-41
- climate, climate change, environmental factors, food security, grazing, livestock, livestock production, pastures, prediction, rain, spatial variation, uncertainty, Great Plains region, United States
- Sustaining livestock agriculture is important for global food security. Livestock productivity, however, can fluctuate due to many environmental factors, including climate variability. Current predictions of continued warming, decreased precipitation, and increased climate variability worldwide raise serious questions for scientists and producers alike. Foremost is understanding how to mitigate livestock production losses attributed to climate extremes and variability. We investigated the influence of spatial heterogeneity on livestock production over six years in tallgrass prairie of the southern Great Plains, USA. We manipulated heterogeneity by allowing fire and grazing to interact spatially and temporally at broad scales across pastures ranging from 430 to 900ha. We found that the influence of precipitation on livestock productivity was contingent upon heterogeneity. When heterogeneity was absent, livestock productivity decreased with reduced rainfall. In contrast, when heterogeneity was present, there was no relationship with rainfall and livestock productivity, resulting in heterogeneity stabilizing livestock productivity through time. With predicted increases in climate variability and uncertainty, managing for heterogeneity may assist livestock producers in adapting to climate change and in mitigating livestock productivity loss caused by climatic variability.