Role of European Grasslands in the mitigation of climate change - potential constraints and research challenges

A. van den Pol, Pete Smith, Lutz Merbold

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

There is a growing consensus that projected levels of meat demand are unsustainable, so we will need to eat less meat in the future, as well as tackling waste in the food system. Since ruminants produce large quantities of methane through enteric fermentation, it has been suggested that ruminants should be the primary target for livestock product reductuion, but there is a strong case to instead target reductions in monogastric livestock production, since monogastrics consume potentially human-ediblke products, wheras ruminants are able to consume products (grass) that cannot be consumed by humans, and are the most efficient means of producing human food on land unsuitable for crops. The livestock sector and grasslands play a major role in climate change, from both global and European perspectives. This is illustrated by data on the current status of emissions from the livestock sector in combination wirh projections of emissions from the sector to 2050. There is, however, also a large climate change mitigation potential in the livestock/grassland sector, both via supply-side measures and demand-side measures. Here we provide evidence fromt the literature showing that the grazing lands that support ruminant production in Europe are important for carbon and ntrogen cycling, and for underpinning a range of other ecosystem services, adding further weight to the case to retain pasture raised ruminants as a part of future food systems. This will need to be done, however, in the context of reduced overall consumption of livestock products. Indeed, reduced livestock product consumption could be seen as the enabling condition that allows pasture-fed ruminants tot ake their role in future food production systems. If more of human dietary requirements were met through vegetal matter, which is more efficient in terms of land, greehoude gases, water and other resources, there is more "headroom"in the food system to consider a range of production systems to deliver livestock products to human diets. Pasture-fed ruminants, with high environmental and welfare status, could play a central role in future food systems, in delivering food security and in protecting the ecosystem services provided by grasslands.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication26th EGF General Meeting on “The Multiple Roles of Grassland in the European Bioeconomy”
PublisherEuropean Grassland Federation EGF
Pages730-745
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event26th EGF General Meeting on “The Multiple Roles of Grassland in the European Bioeconomy” - Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 4 Sep 20168 Sep 2016
http://www.europeangrassland.org/printed-matter/proceedings.html

Publication series

NameGrassland Science in Europe
Volume21

Conference

Conference26th EGF General Meeting on “The Multiple Roles of Grassland in the European Bioeconomy”
CountryNorway
CityTrondheim
Period4/09/168/09/16
Internet address

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