This reprinted article by David Pratt with commentary by John Watson comes from the web site http://www.terraqua.us and is great food for thought.
The Land Investor
News and Commentary on Land-based Investment
Ranchland, Farmland and Timberland Management For Biodiversity will also Boost and Diversify Revenues for the Long Haul
Following is an excellent article, The Practical Side of Biodiversity, by David Pratt, ranch management consultant, that does a good job of explaining in a ranching context how economics and management for biodiversity are interconnected. For the economics of the ranch operation to be maximized for the long haul the property must be managed in a holistic way. What Pratt preaches is not unique just to ranchland investments, but also applies to the farmland and timberland sectors. Examples in the farmland space include the use of no-till or strip till soil management practices which result in less runoff and erosion, lower fuel and fertilizer inputs, and building soils over the long haul. Forestland investors and managers are increasingly moving to working forest conservation easements, enhancing and enhancing ecosystem services; ie wetlands, species, and learning how to monetize through conservation finance means as well as monetize environmental assets and better preserve their natural asset into a sustainable future both boosting and diversifying revenues derived from forestland assets.
Kudos to David Pratt for his article well presented.
The Practical Side Of Biodiversity
I once asked ranching consultant Gregg Simonds, if there were only three things he could measure to evaluate the health of rangelands, what they would be. He responded: 1. Cover, 2. Cover, and 3. Biodiversity. Gregg wasn’t being facetious when he listed the top two criteria as cover. There are several types of cover (soil cover, basal cover, canopy cover, etc.). I never did pin Gregg down on which he thought were most important, but regardless of the type, cover is reasonably easy to measure and I think most of us can appreciate its importance.
It is harder to understand or appreciate the importance of biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the variety of plants, animals and microorganisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystems they form. Genetic diversity is critical to maintaining the viability of populations within species. Species diversity is vital for several reasons, not the least of which are the many interactive effects among organisms. For example, one gram of forest soil may have over 4,000 different species of bacteria. The interaction of some of these bacteria with roots is essential for the vigorous growth of some commercial timber species. Some of these bacteria are dispersed by voles, mice, insects and other creatures we normally think of as pests. In the absence of the microbes the trees don’t grow as rapidly and are more susceptible to disease and pollution. How important are these rarely seen and easily forgotten organisms to the productivity of the forest and, therefore, the jobs in the timber industry? That’s hard to quantify but it isn’t a stretch to see the relationship.
We will never know or understand all of the relationships between organisms in a community. We do know that when we lose diversity, communities are more susceptible to disease out breaks, weed infestations and pest problems. Diversity also plays a role in the ability of an ecosystem to function during and following severe environmental events like droughts.
Cell grazing, which promotes root growth and creates habitat for desirable microbes in the soil, is just one of the many things we can do as ranchers to increase biodiversity on our properties. Avoiding excess fertilization and the use of toxic chemicals also tend to maintain or increase biodiversity. There are several things we can do to enhance habitat for wildlife that increase diversity. Wildlife waterers, like the ones I saw on Curtis Rankin’s ranch are a terrific example. To see a video of the waterers that Curtis installs every time he puts in a tank for his cattle click here.
In the long run, ecology and economics are inseparable. In fact, I think of them as one in the same: eco-nomics or econ-ology. In past editions of ProfitTips, I’ve written about many Ranching For Profit School alumni who used their knowledge to drastically increase their carrying capacity without spending money on herbicides or fertilizers (which tend to decrease biodiversity) or seeding. What they feel for their land is probably not unique among ranchers. What they had that most of their neighbors didn’t was a deeper understanding of ecosystem processes and tools like cell grazing. The results we see consistently are more cover, more cover and more biodiversity.