Conventional wisdom says that overgrazing causes desertification of rangelands. Allan Savory says that’s dead wrong.
Plants have external digestive systems. We animals have microorganisms in our guts to break down food and make it useful to our cells, but plants don’t have that luxury. Their digestive bacteria and fungi live in the soil.
Savory divides the world into two areas:
In areas with a year-round high humidity, dead organism decay rapidly, and bare ground is quickly covered with vegetation. These areas cover about 1/3 of the planet’s land area.
The other 2/3 of land area has prolonged dry seasons. During the dry season, plant matter dies, but the microorganisms that the plants need to digest that organic matter also die off. Instead of being digested, dead organic matter is standing. Since it doesn’t mulch the ground, the bare soil doesn’t retain moisture. New plants dry out before they get established.
In brittle environments, the bacteria in animal digestive tracks stays moist and alive during the dry season. Brittle environments require animals to build healthy soil. Before we humans screwed it up, massive buffalo herds in the US midwest would decimate the plant life in an area. However, at the same time they fertilized that area, and they moved on quickly allowing the plant life to recover. This cycle resulted in some of the thickest, richest top soil in the world in a semi-brittle environment.
Savory says overgrazing isn’t what’s turning brittle grass lands into deserts. A lack of animals is. In the US, the natural grazing animals are long gone, and for the most part our domesticated grazers don’t even live on the grasslands anymore. Our corporate industrial farming system has relegated grazing animals to hellish feed lots. Vast tracts of range land are left fallow, which most people would expect to be a good thing, but the plant life isn’t recovering. It’s digestive system is missing.
Smart land management in brittle environments mimics those natural buffalo herds and restores the land by intensely grazing it and moving the animals to new pastures often.
In this 1 hour presentation Savory goes into more detail and shows some convincing photographic evidence. He also argues that humans have been causing climate change because of this misunderstanding for a very long time.
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