Modeling the spatial distribution of grazing intensity in Kazakhstan


With increasing affluence in many developing countries, the demand for livestock products is rising and the increasing feed requirement contributes to pressure on land resources for food and energy production. However, there is currently a knowledge gap in our ability to assess the extent and intensity of the utilization of land by livestock, which is the single largest land use in the world. We developed a spatial model that combines fine-scale livestock numbers with their associated energy requirements to distribute livestock grazing demand onto a map of energy supply, with the aim of estimating where and to what degree pasture is being utilized. We applied our model to Kazakhstan, which contains large grassland areas that historically have been used for extensive livestock production but for which the current extent, and thus the potential for increasing livestock production, is unknown. We measured the grazing demand of Kazakh livestock in 2015 at 286 Petajoules, which was 25% of the estimated maximum sustainable energy supply that is available to livestock for grazing. The model resulted in a grazed area of 1.22 million km2, or 48% of the area theoretically available for grazing in Kazakhstan, with most utilized land grazed at low intensities (average off-take rate was 13% of total biomass energy production). Under a conservative scenario, our estimations showed a production potential of 0.13 million tons of beef additional to 2015 production (31% increase), and much more with utilization of distant pastures. This model is an important step forward in evaluating pasture use and available land resources, and can be adapted at any spatial scale for any region in the world.

PLoS One
Daniel Müller
Daniel Müller