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Sustaining Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions

Economic Issues

Clement A. Tisdell

This innovative book identifies socio-economic processes which transform the stock of genetic resources and ecosystems and discusses sustainability issues raised by variations in this stock. It focuses subsequently on the socio-economics of the conservation and change in the stock of human developed germplasm and ecosystems. Particular attention is given to crops, livestock, GMOs, reduced economic value due to biological erosion, alternative agroecosystems, and property rights in germplasm. The book concludes with an exploration of the economic topics dealing with changes in the stock of wild germplasm and natural ecosystems, and discusses the associated valuation problems.
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Chapter 6: Livestock and the socio-economics of biodiversity loss

Clement A. Tisdell


This chapter focuses on the socio-economic factors and processes that have contributed to the loss of genetic diversity of domesticated animals, particularly livestock. However, it also includes some discussion of the implications of livestock husbandry for biodiversity change generally, its consequences for ecosystems and environments and its impact on food security. These impacts vary with the type of animal husbandry practised and the species involved. Livestock are domesticated animals that have, or which previously had, considerable direct use value for humankind and this contrasts with much wildlife possessing mainly non-use values.1 Nevertheless, some breeds of livestock, especially if rare or endangered, can have significant non-use values as well as use value. Furthermore, grazing by livestock can create favoured cultural landscapes (a type of favourable economic externality) and can help maintain global biodiversity.2 This is well recognized in Europe. For example, the landscapes of the Yorkshire Moors in England and the Luneberg Heath in Germany owe their characteristics to sheep grazing. So in some European localities, agricultural practices creating cultural landscapes are subsidized, and this helps protect some rare breeds. Furthermore, the conservation of some breeds is directly subsidized. In some jurisdictions, rare breeds are also conserved in protected areas (World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 1992, p. 397).

Despite the fact that most domestic animals and their products are classified, in economic terms, as private goods because they are excludable and rivalrous, many breeds have been lost in the last 100 years or so (Alderson, 1994; Scherf, 2000)...

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