I’ve heard that grazing livestock could reverse desertification (Allan Savory’s theories)

Allan Savory’s views do not chime with those of the majority of scientists.

Evidence actually suggests that when there are too many cows in places with intermittent or little rain, especially where the vegetation is brittle and the soil fragile, the animals can cause a real problem. Overgrazing denudes the soil and produces erosion, which leads to a landscape where plants cannot revive and grow.1

At least 8.4 billion acres on the planet are grazed, and 73 percent of that land is suffering from some form of land degradation, according to the International Journal of Biodiversity.2

Cattle have been implicated in the eradication of native plants, the loss of biodiversity, the pollution of springs and streams, the erosion of stream banks, the exacerbation of floods that carry away soil, the deforestation of hardwoods, and, in the worst cases, a reduction of living soil to lifeless dust. Two centuries of grazing on the Colorado Plateau catalyzed the most severe vegetation changes in 5,400 years, one study concluded.3

When one journalist asked Savory for specifics – for statistical measurements of recovery on land that had been treated with his method; metrics of the claimed increases in biodiversity and vegetation density; the number of grazers; the duration of the grazing; and the time frame of recovery – Savory refused to respond.

To date, his ideas have not been proven, his trial was said to have ‘failed to produce the marked improvement in grass cover claimed from its application’,4 and he himself admits that any successful outcomes cannot be replicated.

We would take his claims with a pinch of salt.

For more information on grazing systems and the soil carbon sequestration question, we recommend reading the Food Climate Research Network study: Grazed and Confused. Here researchers sought to resolve the question: can keeping livestock outdoors cause a net reduction in greenhouse gases? The authors spent two years investigating the issue. They cite 300 sources. Their answer is unequivocal. No.

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