Revival of traditional best practices for rangeland restoration under climate change in the dry areas A case study from Southern Tunisia

Belgacem, A. O. B. S., et al., 2019. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management

Original research (primary data)
View External Publication Link

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the benefits of reintroducing traditional grazing systems practices for improving arid rangelands. Grazing is the most extensive land use in southern Tunisia, but the rangelands have suffered many decades of severe degradation due to profound socioeconomic changes and the emergence of an agro-pastoral society in place of the former pastoral one. Traditional grazing systems (gdel and herd mobility), which had historically allowed for grazing deferment and control of grazing livestock were abandoned. Yet grazing management strategies are important tools to sustain integrated livestock rangeland production systems in dry areas in the face of ongoing climate change and human pressure. Design/methodology/approach This study assesses the revival of traditional best practices of rangeland resting in a representative community. Total plant cover, species composition, flora richness and range production were determined in six rangeland sites subjected respectively to one, two and three years of rest; one and two years of light grazing after rest; and free grazing (control). Findings Results showed that dry rangelands keep their resilience to the negative effects of climate change once human pressure is controlled. A maximum of two years of rest is enough to sustainably manage the rangelands in southern Tunisia, as this protection showed considerable and positive effects on the parameters scored. Originality/value The revival of the traditional best practices under new arrangements adapted to current biophysical and socioeconomic conditions would be an excellent tool to mitigate the negative effects of frequent droughts and reduce the animal feed costs that poor farmers face.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-240-1
  • Intervention type: Combination
  • Intervention description:

    traditional grazing practices...the rest technique locally called gdel as a common practice for many centuries...Gdel is based on the principle of leaving the rangeland in rest (without grazing) to reconstitute its plant cover…. Sites left to rest by protecting from grazing for up to 3 yrs then exposed to short duration grazing of 1 to 2 years

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Loss of food production  Positive Outcome measures: rangeland biomass, rangeland productivity (P, in forage units (FU)/ha/year) carrying capacity (takes into account the plant species cover and its palatability factor (PF) or acceptability index, determined by the ration of P and the annual needs of a sheep unit, which is estimated at 400 FU/year) although intervention had negative effect on total biomass, it had positive effect on the other measures and authors conclude that overall the intervention had a positive effect “Rangeland vegetation in our study area was able to respond positively in terms of a range of desirable attributes following rational grazing.” AC 3.16.2021 - *** only coding for the climate impact directly related to outcome measures -> loss of food production
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Chenini community rangelands of the governorate of Tataouine in south-eastern Tunisia.

  • Country: Tunisia
  • Habitat/Biome type: Tropical and subtropical grasslands |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable

Evidence

  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness determined by comparing to control sites that had not been left to rest by protection from grazing even though looking at different treatments (number of years for resting or resting and then grazing), the aim was essentially to test at these different stages to understand how exactly the intervention of resting and then allowing grazing would have an effect overall (e.g. test after two and three years of resting, to see that two years were sufficient and then when grazing was reinstated, what was the result). therefore coded as one intervention only and the outcomes relevant to code for are from the 1 and 2 yrs of grazing followed by rest - this in practise, the cycle of resting and grazing, is the ultimate intervention
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: Please select
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Positive
  • Ecosystem measures: plant cover and density (total + broken down for different species grouped whether annuals and perennials) species richness "The variation in species richness is clearly evident, with the most species recorded in the site subjected to three years’ rest (32 species; 14 perennials; and 18 annuals) and the fewest species recorded in the freely grazed site (16 species; 9 perennials; and 7 annuals). By contrast, the effects of one and two years of controlled grazing on species richness were distinguishable from those of one and two years of rest by only a few (maximum of five) species. Species richness remained almost constant in the controlled grazing, but it declined in the free grazed treatment." "Even if the results have shown that a protection period of three years is neither sufficient for disappeared species to return, nor for succession to reach a new stage, particularly in the degraded Stipa tenacissima community, the reintroduction of the rest practice of gdel seems to be beneficial and a suitable tool to sustainably restore the arid rangelands under a changing climate."
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Positive
  • People measures: the same as the main outcome measures in relation to fodder production/rangeland productivity, because these are explicitly linked to the local community which depends on the land in subject to the intervention. So these have direct socioeconomic impats to a local community, with implications for food security. "Food security/Adaptation/DRR: Climate impact is loss of agri productivity (linked to land degradation caused by overgrazing and recurrent droughts…also desertification is mentioned as a problem which is partially attributed to winds that lead to erosion of bare ground) Outcome measures: rangeland biomass, rangeland productivity (P, in forage units (FU)/ha/year) carrying capacity (takes into account the plant species cover and its palatability factor (PF) or acceptability index, determined by the ration of P and the annual needs of a sheep unit, which is estimated at 400 FU/year) although intervention had negative effect on total biomass, it had positive effect on the other measures and authors conclude that overall the intervention had a positive effect “Rangeland vegetation in our study area was able to respond positively in terms of a range of desirable attributes following rational grazing.”"
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: Yes
  • Experimental evalution done: In-situ/field
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Study is systematic: