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Our research article was introduced in “Science”

Grazing Exclusion with Fences on the Tibetan Plateau

 Comments of Dr. Jian SUN

Fences are a main measure to restore the degraded land, preserve biodiversity or to isolate migrant on the worldwide, which has generated boons as well as banes to human well-being. Across the Tibetan Plateau, grazing exclusion with fences is used to restore degraded grassland. The existing researches have limited understanding of the effects of grazing exclusion on ecosystems functions, wildlife, grazing capacity, human-wildlife land conflicts, as well as its impacts on public cognition.
Consequently, we have conducted a comprehensive study about grazing exclusion with fences on the Tibetan Plateau using meta-analyses, linkages between wildlife and fences, and a household survey, and we have published an article “Reconsidering the efficiency of grazing exclusion using fences on the Tibetan Plateau” in an academic journal “Science Bulletin” with recommending a policy framework for the sustainable management of alpine grassland.
This work is performed by Dr. Jian Sun (Visiting Associate Professor of Arid Land Research Center), Dr. Atsushi Tsunekawa (Professor of Arid Land Research Center), Dr. Fei Peng (Specially Appointed Associate Professor of International Platform for Dryland Research and Education), and Dr. Miao Liu (Invited Researcher of Arid Land Research Center), who belong to Tottori University.
The article was introduced as “Editor’s Choice” in an academic journal “Science” with the title of “Move the fences”.

 [Gongga Mountain]  [Quadrat investigation in fencing area]
 [A fence to exclude livestock (sheep) grazing showing the difference in vegetation growth inside and outside the fence]   [Domestic yaks (Bos grunniens), one of typical livestock kept in the Tibetan Plateau instead of cattle because of cold climate and oxygen-poor environment]

 ”Move the fences”
(Article of Editor’s Choice in “Science”)
Science vol. 368 no. 6494 962-963
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.368.6494.962-f

The sensitive alpine meadow and steppe systems of the Tibetan Plateau have experienced serious degradation over the past half-century. To restore these habitats, an extensive system of wire fences has been erected across the region; some have been in place for 30 years. Fences can protect plants from immediate grazing by livestock, but they limit connectivity for other organisms, interrupt trophic dynamics, and artificially divide landscapes. Sun et al. used a large-scale meta-analysis to determine whether these fences have been effective for restoration, how they affect wildlife, and what effect they have on human populations on the basis of interviews with local herdsmen. Fences that had been in place for short to medium periods of time were able to increase aboveground vegetative biomass for both meadows and steppe. However, long-term fencing decreased plant growth and diversity, with negative ecosystem impacts. In addition, fences inhibited the movement of three focal mammal species—Tibetan gazelles, yaks, and donkeys—which increased their grazing impact on unfenced regions. The herders perceived fences as not only preventing their ability to use traditional grazing practices but also as being ineffective overall. Fences can be useful tools but only when they are transitional and impermanent. —SNV Sci. Bull. 10.1016/j.scib.2020.04.035 (2020).

Credit: From Science 29 May 2020: Vol. 368, Issue 6494, pp. 962-963 DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6494.962-f. Reprinted with permission from AAAS.

 The article introduced by Editor’s Choice
published in “Science Bulletin”
Science Bulletin Vol. 65, Issue16 

Grazing exclusion using fences is a key policy being applied by the Chinese government to rehabilitate degraded grasslands on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) and elsewhere. However, there is a limited understanding of the effects of grazing exclusion on alpine ecosystem functions and services and its impacts on herders’livelihoods. Our meta-analyses and questionnaire-based surveys revealed that grazing exclusion with fences was effective in promoting aboveground vegetation growth for up to four years in degraded alpine meadows and for up to eight years in the alpine steppes of the TP. Longer-term fencing did not bring any ecological and economic benefits. We also found that fencing hindered wildlife movement, increased grazing pressure in unfenced areas, lowered the satisfaction of herders, and rendered substantial financial costs to both regional and national governments. We recommend that traditional free grazing should be encouraged if applicable, short-term fencing (for 4–8 years) should be adopted in severely degraded grasslands, and fencing should be avoided in key wildlife habitat areas, especially the protected large mammal species.

Jian Sun, Miao liu, Bojie Fu, David Kemp, Wenwu Zhao, Guohua Liu, Guodong Han, Andreas Wilkes, Xuyang Lu, Youchao Chen, Genwei Cheng, Tiancai Zhou, Ge Hou, Tianyu Zhan, Fei Peng, Hua Shang, Ming Xu, Peili Shi, Yongtao He, Meng LiShow lessJinniu Wang, Atsushi Tsunekawa, Huakun Zhou, Yu Liu, Yurui Li, Shiliang Liu. 2020. Reconsidering the efficiency of grazing exclusion using fences on the Tibetan Plateau. Science Bulletin 65 (16): 1405-1414.