Su, H., W. Liu, H. Xu, J. Yang, B. Su, X. Zhang, R. Wang, Y. Li
Free-range chicken farming (CF) has been demonstrated to be effective in controlling locust plagues and restoring degraded vegetation in rangelands. However, the effects of CF on vegetation growth and soil conditions of rangeland ecosystems are not yet well known. We studied the effects of CF (treated by three stocking rates from low-intensity to high-intensity), livestock grazing (LG) and zero grazing (ZG) on vegetation characteristics and soil nutrient conditions in a degraded rangeland of northern China. CF significantly improved vegetation growth and soil quality compared with LG. The moderate CF2 with 333 birds per hectare enhanced the aboveground net primary production to 204·0 g m2 yr1 and vegetation cover to 88·8%, which is significantly higher than LG by 80·7% and 62·9%, respectively. Moreover, CF2 neutralized the pH value and raised soil organic matter, total N content, available N content and available P content to approximately 7·59 g kg1, 0·34 g kg1, 83·52 mg kg1 and 3·4 mg kg1, respectively. Compared with ZG, the positive impacts of CF on rangelands depended on the stocking rate, and better performance was achieved when lower stocking rates were used. We also analysed the economic benefits of CF through a cost–benefit analysis. A local family could obtain a net present value of at least $252·19 per hectare by engaging in CF, which was two-fold higher than LG. Finally, we proposed a novel land-use model that introduces CF into traditional LG dominated system and can be widely applied to promote socio-ecological sustainable development in degraded rangelands.
Land Degradation and Development