Land management systems

Virulent knowledge gaps relate to aspects of land management and livestock systems. Dynamics, drivers as well as socio-ecological changes in management, e.g. in land-use intensity, remain still underresearched, but preliminary evidence indicates that land management changes could be associated with significant impacts on key parameters of the Earth system (Erb et al., 2013). Fostered research activities are required to improve data availability on land management, its impacts on e.g. terrestrial ecosystem parameters, as well as the generic understanding of the management dynamics. 

A particularly important component of land systems are livestock systems, which is also expected to gain in importance due to global population growth and anticipated dietary changes. Many trade-offs relate to livestock production, as livestock is an effective way to increase the resource base of society, in particular under subsistence production (by allowing to make use of otherwise not usable land), but at the same time is associated with efficiency losses in terms of input-output ratios, in particular in cases where human-edible biomass is used as feedstuff, large GHG emissions and other environmental detriments. However, severe data and knowledge gaps related to livestock systems that hamper the systematic analysis of these aspects. While production of livestock products is relatively well documented (e.g. by the FAO), many severe data gaps remain. For instance, only fragmented information is available for feedstuff that is not traded or not marketed such as roughage, grazed biomass and fodder crops. Furthermore, the extent of areas subject to grazing is largely unknown, and most databases neglect grazing land altogether. This severely hampers the analysis impacts of grazing on the Earth system, such as impacts on biogeochemical cycles or biodiversity. The development of robust spatially explicit information on grazing areas requires advancements in the characterization of livestock grazing systems and improvement of global datasets. This is one prerequisite for the analysis if important aspects of livestock systems, such as its role for human-induced soil degradation. <reference to pastoral systems, Mark Moritz reference>. Moreover, in many regions of the world livestock plays a key role for food security, while in other regions the consumption of animal based products is associated with issues of overconsumption, obesity and environmental degradation. Many aspects of this function remain unexplored. Concerted efforts of the land science community and beyond are required to close knowledge gaps an advance the fundamental understanding of the relation between livestock systems and human-wellbeing.