Importance of grazing for conservation, insights from “Open Landscapes 2013 – Ecology, Management and Nature Conservation“

Last month some of my colleagues and I attended the Open Landscapes conference in Hildesheim (Germany). This was the first “Open Landscapes” conference ever, bringing together researchers and conservationists on the topic of conservation and restoration of open landscapes. Overall, the sessions ranged from wetland and coastal management, river restoration over grassland restoration, nitrogen deposition in open landscapes, heathland ecosystems to ecosystem and biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.

For me, doing research on wood-pastures in Europe, the highlight was the “wood-pastures in transition” session led by my colleagues Tibor Hartel and others. It was the first time wood-pastures were given an own session at a conference and the large number of wood-pasture experts attending the conference shows there was a need for it.  The talks in the session ranged from traditional knowledge to manage wood-pastures in the future (by A. Varga), different aspects of biodiversity in wood-pastures, to tree regeneration under different grazing pressures (by J. van Uytvanck ). But not only wood-pastures as semi-open habitats are dependent of grazing management. A lot of sessions on this conference were also dealing with the impact of grazing animals for conservation. Water buffalos are used to preserve wetlands and maintain habitats for the European tree frog (by B.Lysakowski), the benefits for vegetation structure from cattle foraging under year round grazing (by K. Fleischer) and seed dispersal due to ungulates (by B. Lepkova) were only a few of the topics dealing with the positive effects of grazing. Related to this, I’d like to recommend a really interesting TED talk by Allan Savory about how domestic grazing can even fight against desertification by mimicking the effects of wild herbivore herds

TED talk by Allan savory

In this context also the rewilding approach, an interesting but controversial tool for nature conservation, was discussed in the session “Rewilding as a tool and target in the management of open landscapes” at the open landscapes conference. Frans Vera (famous for his rewilding project “Oostvaardersplassen”) gave in impression of a wilderness in the heart of the Netherlands by trailer of a documentary of the project:

Overall the conference was not only packed with interesting talks and posters (you can find the abstract book and program  here), but also placed in a nice atmosphere with time to meet people and to discuss things. I hope the first conference will not have been the last.

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