Grazing guru and biologist Allan Savory recently gave an inspirational TED talk (riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world at www.ted.com). It has already had over 600,000 views – so it’s certainly hitting a chord.

Cattle restore degraded grasslands

Large herds of cattle managed properly can restore degraded grasslands and increase productivity by improving soil health

His key messages are:

♦ Two thirds of the world (yes two thirds) is turning to desert – rainfall that falls onto bare earth quickly evaporates, carbon is also released into the air and the soils below are dead. Nothing will grow.

♦ Grazing animals – wild and domesticated have been wrongly blamed for causing this ‘desertification’ by many – including intelligent researchers, modern range scientists, governments etc – when actually they are the answer. These areas need more grazing animals – not less.

♦ A metre square of bare soil stays colder at night, and becomes much hotter in sunshine, than a similar area of soil protected by a cap of vegetable matter/leaf litter. Its micro-climate is very different.

Imagine if more than half the world’s surface was bare – what implications would this have at a macro-climate level? No-one really understands or knows.

♦ Seasonally humid areas – ie those characterised with a few months of rain followed by longer spells of drought, can be revived by running large mobs of grazing animals, managed in a way which mimics native herd behaviour.

♦ Thousands of years ago, the best defence for wild grazing herbivores from ferocious predators, was to live in a large group and to keep moving. This also meant they didn’t have to eat food they had dunged and urinated on.

This continual movement prevented the overgrazing of plants. The periodic trampling ensured good cover for the soil and a build up of precious organic matter. Once the herd had moved away, there was plenty of time for the grass to rejuvenate once the rains returned.

Grazing is essential for removing excess vegetation – if long grass is left it falls over and smothers the ground, suffocating the flora beneath.

Man understands the importance of getting rid of the old, dead grass – but in many countries has turned to fire to burn it off. This is not the answer.

One hectare of burning grass gives off more, and more damaging pollutants than 6,000 cars. In Africa more than one billion hectares of grass are burnt each year.

♦ There is only one option to reverse the loss of grasslands. The re-introduction  of livestock – bunched up and kept moving.

♦ Where this has been done on 15 million hectares on five continents, in a planned ‘Holistic’ way – grass has returned and beneath it healthy soil now absorbs rainfall and stores carbon. And the livestock that eat the grass provide food for people.

Click on the CAPTION below to see examples in Mr Savory’s presentation

“How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change”

How to green the desert and reverse climate change

♦ He believes the loss of the world’s grasslands is causing as much climate change as the use of fossil fuels, and maybe more.

It is also causing hunger, poverty, violence and wars and the death of millions of people.  If this continues, he says we are unlikely to be able to stop climate change – even after we have eliminated the use of fossil fuels.

But we can work with nature at very low cost to reverse this.

♦ Carbon scientists have worked out that putting livestock back onto half of the world’s grasslands, could take enough carbon out of the atmosphere and safely store it in the soil – taking us back to pre-industrial levels.

♦ Mr Savory concludes by saying he can think of nothing that gives him more hope for the planet, our children and their children and all humanity.

More at www.savoryinstitute.com

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