Linking Landscape Ecology and Pastoralism: An Integrative Approach

Linking Pastoralism and Landscape Ecology in
Ryan R. Unks
Integrative Conservation in Forestry and Natural Resources
University of Georgia
July 16th, 2014
• Specialized breeds of livestock that tolerate drought,
high heat, and migration
• Milk production rather than consumptive use
• Unique Social Structure
• Customary Authority – Councils of Elders
• Complex networks of reciprocity
• Flexible access to temporally and spatially variable
Semi-arid Ecology
• Rainfall limits productivity and is highly variable, leading to
spatial heterogeneity of vegetation resources
• Access to resources across the landscape buffers against
variability (Ash et al. 2002)
• Lack of movement can couple resources and herbivores leading
to vegetation changes (Hodgkinson 1995, Boone 2011)
Photo: Lizzie King
Laikipia County
Mukogodo Reserve, an “open” system
• Historical loss of land during the colonial period
and recent loss of access to grazing in areas that
were formerly government or absentee-owned
land (Letai and Lind 2013)
• Market influences on herds, high amounts of
sales of small-stock to buy grains and fulfill basic
needs (Herren 1987, Hauck 2013)
• Large decreases in herd size and changes in
composition (lowest #’s of livestock per capita in
the region, large increases in small-stock (Herren
Ecological Change
• Increases in unpalatable
• Loss of herbaceous and
woody species that are
important for pastoralist
• Changes in plant
composition with
potential implications for
ecosystem function and
Main Points of Inquiry
1. How are social and institutional factors
mediating grazing practices over time
at different spatial scales?
2. How are spatial relationships of plant
community composition related to
changes in grazing practices?
3. What are the implications of interrelated
changes in social and ecological
dynamics for livelihoods and natural
resource management regimes?
• 1. Herding Changes – Interviews and Household
Surveys underway to determine recent changes
in herding and household grazing at the
landscape scale
• 2. Vegetation Changes
• a. Satellite image analysis to analyze the
history of vegetation change and structural
patterns at the landscape scale
• b. Plant Community Ecology methods to
explore vegetation composition and structure at
fine scales
• 3. Implications
• Multi-level Institutional Analysis focusing on
variability of access to vegetation resources at
different spatial scales
Exploring synergies between pastoralism,
landscape processes, and wildlife
• Support: National Science Foundation Dynamics of
Coupled Natural-Human Systems
Advisor: Lizzie King (Odum School of Ecology)
Co-advisor and collaborator: Laura German (UGA
Technician extraordinaire: Wachira Naiputari
Lelekung Naiputari, Lesayu Parseroi, Calol Parseroi
Ash, A, Stafford Smith, D & Abel, N. 2002. Land degradation and secondary production in semiarid and arid grazing systems: What is the evidence? In Global desertification: Do humans cause
deserts? edited by J Reynolds & D Stafford Smith. Berlin: Dahlem University Press.
Boone, R. B., Galvin, K. A., BurnSilver, S. B., Thornton, P. K., Ojima, D. S., & Jawson, J. R. (2011).
Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services.
Ecology and Society, 16(2), 6.
Herren, U. J. (1987). "The People of Mukogodo Division, Laikipia District: A Historical and
Anthropological Baseline." In Laikipia Reports (No.9). Berne, Switzerland: Laikipia Research
Programme, University of Berne.
Hodgkinson, K. (1995). A model for perennial grass mortality under grazing. In Proceedings of
the Fifth International Rangeland Congress. Society for Range Management, Denver, Colorado,
USA (pp. 240-241).
Kaye-Zwiebel, E. W. (2011). Development aid and community public goods provision: a study of
pastoralist communities in Kenya (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton University).
Letai, J. and J. Lind (2013). ‘Squeezed from All Sides: Changing Resource Tenure and Pastoralist
Innovation on the Laikipia Plateau, Kenya’ in Catley et al. (Eds.)
McCabe, J. T. (2004). Cattle bring us to our enemies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Ludwig, J. A., Wilcox, B. P., Breshears, D. D., Tongway, D. J., & Imeson, A. C. (2005). Vegetation
patches and runoff-erosion as interacting ecohydrological processes in semiarid landscapes.
Ecology, 86(2), 288-297.

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