Just got a paper published in PLOS ONE. Basically, it provides the rationale for why it pays off for pastoralists to keep large herds of livestock.
Environmental hazards, such as snowstorms, drought, floods and icing significantly affect livestock survival and reproduction. While the pictures are from Tibet, the published paper shows that Saami reindeer herders with a large herd of animals before such aforementioned environmental crisis also have comparable larger herds after the crisis. In short, herd accumulation maximizes long-term survival for pastoralists and works as an efficient insurance against environmental variability.
Why is this an important result? Because of the simple fact that climate change entails, among other things, an increased frequency of extreme weather events (a trend that has already been observed), and thus represents a significant challenge for pastoralists.
Herd accumulation is, for example, predicated on periods of recuperation when herd growth is possible. In fact, a delay in restocking after environment-induced losses is one of the main problems of pastoral production. Herd accumulation can thus be expected to work less efficiently, if at all, when the frequency of extreme events increases.
This should have important policy implications: if herd accumulation works less efficiently when the frequency of extreme events increases, governmental support that incorporates (or preferably increase the effect of) pastoral risk management strategies may be the only solution for ensuring the continued existence of pastoralism (also check the post Reindeer herders’ objectives may differ from official assumptions and Climate Change, Risk Management and the End of Nomadic Pastoralism).
To access the full paper, click here.