Overgrazing in Oman can cause damage to environment, says expert
March 10, 2018 | 10:12 PM
by Times News Service
Overgrazing could be checked by reducing the number of livestock, according to ESO member Andrew Spalton. Photo-Supplied

Muscat: Overgrazing in parts of Oman due to a significant rise in the number of domestic livestock poses a threat to the environment, experts have said.

Biologist Andrew Spalton, a member of the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), said some parts of the Sultanate were heavily affected by grazing when compared with others. “Overgrazing is most apparent in Jabal Al Qara and Jabal Al Qamar. Also, there is a low level of overgrazing in Jabal Samhan as there is little livestock there,” he said.

Spalton further said the problem was a 10-fold increase in the number of livestock over the last five decades, mainly goat, sheep, cattle, and camels. “The number of livestock has increased by a factor of at least 10 since 1970. It is simply the large number of goats, cattle, and camels that is eating away at pastures,” he remarked.

The biologist said that overgrazing posed multiple threats to the environment, with the main problem being soil erosion. “It would lead to a loss of grazing, especially the main forage species, for wild herbivores and, of course, for the livestock itself. This would cause replacement of important forage species by unpalatable and invasive species. As a consequence, there would be degradation and compaction of soil and overuse of limited water resources. Ultimately, overgrazing will lead to a loss of species diversity as natural habitats are damaged or destroyed,” Spalton said.

The ESO member said overgrazing could be checked by reducing the number of livestock and giving pastures more time to grow before using them for grazing.

“Livestock is primarily held for prestige value with little or no economic returns. We need to work with local communities to develop measures to better manage livestock numbers in a sustainable way. This will involve a reduction in numbers but other important measures include longer periods of seasonal resting for important khareef pastures,” he said.

“It will also include improved marketing of livestock and livestock products and a consideration to reduce the numbers that roam freely. Also, establishing fenced enclosures in drier areas where livestock can be farmed will help,” Spalton commented.

“Selling animals could also help. If people were to realise the economic potential of their livestock, they can be convinced to sell them. Currently, much of the meat and other livestock products consumed in Oman are imported, while local herds of goats, cattle, and camels continue to increase at an exponential rate. Very few are sold,” the biologist added.

He also clarified that a parallel cannot be drawn with the Yellowstone National Park, where wolves had disappeared from a part of the region, causing the number of deer to rise, which led to overgrazing.

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