Overgrazing represents an environmental hazard whereby wildlife or livestock excessively feed on pasture. It is also the practice of grazing livestock on vegetation before it has recovered from a former grazing state, also known as intensive grazing. Otherwise stated, overgrazing takes place when vegetation or pasture is repeatedly removed from the land, and it is not given enough time to continue growing.
Intensive grazing thus causes the plant residual matter to decline and further contributes to numerous negative consequences to both the animals and the land. Consequently, overgrazing signifies a serious environmental challenge in maintaining the natural balance of livestock on grazing lands, which reduces the productivity, usefulness, and biodiversity of the land. The following are the causes, effects, and solutions of overgrazing.
The lack of proper animal and wildlife feeding management on the available pasture is the leading cause of overgrazing. From the definition, overgrazing arises as a result of having too many animals grazing on a piece of land without proper control of the grazing activity of the animals. The failure to rotate animals in harmony with pasture growth is what constitutes overgrazing.
For instance, without proper management of the animals feeding habits, they tend to feed on young plants and seeds, thereby reducing their growth and survival capacities. Besides, the lack of proper animal/wildlife grazing management destroys the soil’s nutrient composition, which further worsens the situation.
Now that we have looked into the problem caused by improper management of livestock, we must also inspect another linked issue. The farmers handling the livestock generally belong to a weaker socio-economic background.
This means that they are unable to support their livestock with the proper amount of fodder and thus, but turning them onto pastures, leave them to fend for themselves.
Drought and the decline in precipitation in any area automatically mean that the growth and survival of plants and vegetation are heavily impacted. The direct outcome of this is stunted growth and drying out of plants/vegetation.
Land use significantly determines the productive condition of the land and soil fertility. Hence, improper land use such as logging activities, slash and burn farming techniques, mining, excessive and unplanned urban sprawl, and land pollution lessens the overall land available for pasture.
All these activities greatly impact the availability of plants and forage by destroying their underlying growth support mechanisms. In most cases, these activities are characterized by an increase in unpalatable plants or weeds and a decrease in plant humus that increases the ptential of the overgrazing problem.
Overstocking implies a situation where a piece of land is intensively stocked with more animals that the site can support for a grazing season. In the majority of the cases, animals are more than the average land available for grazing, which leads to repeated removal of plant/vegetation material without a sufficient amount of time given for the leaf/pasture mass to regrow.
Put differently, farmers who overstock do not let the average land replenish itself after a previous grazing season. Eventually, overgrazing is experienced.
Overgrazing might seem like a feasible solution in the interim, but its effects are long lasting. Best to guard against it.