Special Session: Biodiversity in Agricultural Good Management Practices for Livestock Production Systems on Natural Grasslands

WWF-SA, in conjunction with SANBI’s Grasslands Programme and UKZN’s School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, wants to explore the link between agricultural good management practices for animal production systems on natural grasslands and biodiversity conservation [Note: the focus is on grasslands and NOT on savannah systems].

Special Session: Biodiversity in Agricultural Good Management Practices for Livestock Production Systems on Natural Grasslands

WWF-SA, in conjunction with SANBI’s Grasslands Programme and UKZN’s School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, wants to explore the link between agricultural good management practices for animal production systems on natural grasslands and biodiversity conservation [Note: the focus is on grasslands and NOT on savannah systems].

Session Organiser: Brent Corcoran

The key question: if agricultural good management practices are implemented, what biodiversity features are well conserved, which ones are not well conserved and which ones need further research.

The rationale for this question: WWF’s work with the Grasslands Programme is focused on mainstreaming biodiversity in the agricultural sector. One of the key deliverables is to explore how biodiversity can be considered more effectively in animal production systems on natural grasslands. Therefore, instead of handing over all possible biodiversity good management practice guidelines for use in the agricultural sector, the approach is to consider what is agricultural good management practice for animal production systems, what guidelines exist, what are the benefits for biodiversity and for ecosystem goods and services (i.e. grazing resources, pollinators, water, carbon, sedimentation), and then to consider what biodiversity good management practice needs to be incorporated into agricultural good management practices. This is a far more effective way for mainstreaming than just trying to hand over everything about biodiversity to the agric sector.

It is recognised that this approach is one of a suite of tools to incorporate biodiversity into the agricultural sector. Another tool is biodiversity stewardship, where the focus is on securing biodiversity with landowners in a more formal, legal way. Of course, the aim is to retain viable biodiversity compatible land-uses on such sites, such as ecotourism and sustainable animal production.

In this regard, another question we also want to answer is “if areas are set aside in a biodiversity stewardship arrangement, what are appropriate stocking rates and other veld management requirements, where the conservation requirements are a lot more explicit than in areas with general agricultural best practice, but where the conservation authorities want to ensure that the animal production activities remain financially viable”.

These insights will be used to determine:
(i) how the conservation sector can work with agricultural sector to strengthen both the agricultural good management practice guidelines AND their implementation;
(ii) the preparation of biodiversity good management practice guidelines for incorporation into agricultural best practice guidelines;
(iii) priorities for further research around this issues (note: will be incorporated into the Grasslands Research Strategy for the Grasslands Programme).

Approach to this Special Session

A Concept Paper will be prepared in advance of the Congress through interaction with various agricultural and conservation scientists and practitioners. This will be emailed out by early July 2009 to those attending the Special Session at the Congress.

The Special Session will be an open session, but every attempt will be made to identify and invite specific specialists from the agriculture and conservation sectors to participate in the session.

The structure of the Special Session is as follows:

  • Introduction and setting the scene, purpose for the Special Session
  • Keynote Speakers on the Concept Paper, and aspects in the Concept Paper
  • Plenary and Small-group discussions
  • Plenary session to confirm conclusions from discussions, including recommendations on improving the Concept Paper, and on the way forward

The aim is produce a final concept paper after the Congress, and to consider how this work could be published in a relevant scientific publication. Further work on the Concept Paper may well be needed after the Congress, the results of which could be presented in an updated version at the GSSA Congress in 2010.

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