Linking Livestock Markets and Grazing Practices with the Nutritional Ecology of Grasses and Locusts Under Alternative Property Rights Regimes

Research has recently shown that overgrazing of livestock in a grassland in China lowered the nitrogen content of the grasses and that this caused a rise in the abundance of a locust likely to lead to locust swarms. This proposal will test whether this is also true for related species of locust in Australia and western Africa, and link both grazing practices and locust swarms to economics and social policy in the three contrasting regions. Three biologists and three social scientists will team up to help answer: (1) How do insect-nutrient relations and livestock grazing strategies interact to affect food prices, food security, and rangeland degradation? (2) How do property rights regimes affect the adaptive capacity of societies to respond to the link between overgrazing and locust outbreaks? Because both market forces and locust swarms operate over long distances, these effects are likely to be global.

Locust outbreaks have had devastating effects on food security, impacting crop and livestock yields. This proposal aims to develop new, sustainable strategies to understand and manage locust outbreaks, accounting for feedbacks among ecological, agricultural, and economic systems. Results will be translated directly into management and policy recommendations through collaborations with agricultural agencies. The project will also strengthen international scientific collaboration, train undergraduate and graduate students, and develop a multi-media outreach program for K-12 students and teachers.

Lead Investigator: 
Australia, western Africa