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Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 340; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020340

Effect of Large Wild Herbivore Populations on the Forage-Livestock Balance in the Source Region of the Yellow River

1
Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
2
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
3
Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 December 2017 / Revised: 11 January 2018 / Accepted: 19 January 2018 / Published: 29 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Wildlife Ecology and Conservation)
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Abstract

Unmanned aerial vehicle surveys were conducted in the summer season of 2016 and the winter season of 2017 to investigate the large wild herbivore population, including kiangs, Tibetan gazelles and bharals, in Madoi County; the source region of the Yellow River. The study generated forage grass production data in 30 m spatial resolution in Madoi County in 2016 using a downscaling algorithm; estimated a forage-livestock balance including wild animals and domestic animals; and analyzed the effect of the large wild herbivore population on the balance between forage grass and herbivory in Madoi County. The large wild herbivore population was estimated based on the density of the animals in the survey sample strip and compared and verified with available statistical data and the two survey results from the summer season of 2016 and winter season of 2017. The results showed that: (1) in the winter season of 2017, the populations of kiang, Tibetan gazelle and bharal were 17,100, 16,000 and 9300, respectively, while the populations of domestic yak, Tibetan sheep and horse were 70,800, 102,200 and 1200, respectively. The total population of large wild herbivores and domestic animals was 475,000 (sheep units). The ratio (in sheep units) between large wild herbivores and domestic animals was 1:4.5; (2) When only considering domestic animals, the grazing pressure index was 1.13, indicating slight overloading of the grassland. When considering domestic animals and large wild herbivores (kiang, Tibetan gazelle and bharal), the grazing pressure index was 1.38, suggesting moderate overloading of the grassland; (3) If large wild herbivores are not taken into consideration when the forage-livestock balance is calculated, the grazing pressure will be under-estimated by 22%. Overgrazing is the major cause of grassland degradation in Madoi County. An additional 79,000 tons of hay or a 30% reduction in domestic animals is required to maintain a forage-livestock balance in Madoi County. View Full-Text
Keywords: UAV remote sensing; large wild herbivores; population; forage-livestock balance; source region of the Yellow River UAV remote sensing; large wild herbivores; population; forage-livestock balance; source region of the Yellow River
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Yang, F.; Shao, Q.; Guo, X.; Tang, Y.; Li, Y.; Wang, D.; Wang, Y.; Fan, J. Effect of Large Wild Herbivore Populations on the Forage-Livestock Balance in the Source Region of the Yellow River. Sustainability 2018, 10, 340.

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