Breeding and biodiversity

We live in a time of great threat to biodiversity, today infact the loss of animal and plant species is hundreds of times faster than in the past centuries. Zootechnical activities causes substantial effects on aspects related to biodiversity and reduction of varieties of life forms as deforestation, soil impoverishment, pollution and climate change that, for that matter, breeding actively contributes, are causes determining a great loss of biodiversity. The impact is also due to the high number of heads of cattle currently raised that represent 20% of the biomass of all animals existing in the world and that occupy 30% of lands that were once inhabited by wild animals. Which are the aspects of breeding having the most negative impact on biodiversity? Breeding conditions based on pasture surely create conflicts with wild fauna (for example, as they’re source of disturbance and menace to predators as wolves and foxes and for bordering protected areas) but the greatest damage is related to the increase of agricultural activity that, in developed countries and especially Europe, has modified soil use and has led to the abandonment of pastures.
The loss of meadows, which had allowed in the past centuries the development of so many different types of ecosystems, has determined the decline of many of these ecosystems. The numerous surveys undertaken in recent years to understand how to preserve biodiversity highlight that zootechnology has a substantial impact on the environment: WWF has identified breeding as a menace to almost 40% of the world’s classified ecoregions, the Conservation International organization has registered that, on a total of 25 areas with high biodiversity (hotspots) in the world, up to 23 suffer negative effects due to the substantial existence of zootechnical activity. Finally, an analysis presented by the Red List of Threatened Species (drafted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN) highlights that the greatest part of threatened species sees its habitats reducing to give way to activities related to breeding, especially cereal crops to produce fodder. Breeding, in particular intensive industrial breeding, thus pushes agriculture to incentivize monoculture of corn, wheat, sunflower and few other cereals that are indispensable to produce great amounts of fodder. As these are intensive crops, though, substantial amounts of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers are required. The latter are often distributed in doses superior to those that crops can absorb and thus penetrate in the land polluting underground water later employed by humans to drink. Moreover, farmers once grew also for their own consumption many varieties of vegetables (that have now literally disappeared) and ensured rotation of farming lands – a technique allowing to prevent impoverishment conditions). Today, instead, fields are extended to the greatest possible extent, trees and shrubs are eliminated to allow big machinery to move easily but in this way there is no more space for every form of animal and plant life: hedges, streams, plants and shrubs constitute infact crucial habitats for many varieties of birds and small rodents that today don’t find the conditions to live in corn crops or the opportunity to live or are rather substituted by allogen species coming from other climates and other continents but that adapt better to new conditions. Monocultures therefore are indispensable for this type of farming that has as effect the reduction of biodiversity in addition to the alteration of landscape, enormous water consumption, the use of chemical products in amounts never seen before. In Italy this phenomenon is visible also in the landscape: in all the Po Valley starting from the first Alp slopes to the Adriatic sea, land is dominated by monocultures, especially corn, considered the king of cereals and grown in very few varieties, the most profitable.

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