News / Asia

Overgrazing Linked to Locust Outbreaks

Nutrient-poor land in Inner Mongolia proves fertile for swarms

A locust in its grassland habitat - a heavily-grazed field in Inner Mongolia.
A locust in its grassland habitat - a heavily-grazed field in Inner Mongolia.

Multimedia

Audio

Livestock overgrazing can lead to outbreaks of ravenous locusts, according to a new study.

Overgrazing is already known to lead to erosion and reduce the fertility of pasture lands.



But the researchers were surprised to find overgrazed, nutrient-poor land in Inner Mongolia was actually fertile ground for a species of locust native to the region.

"It's a counter-intuitive result," says Arianne Cease at Arizona State University, lead author of the study published in Science.

Arianne Cease, left, and field assistants collect grass in a heavily-razed field to test for plant nitrogen, carbon and protein content.
Arianne Cease, left, and field assistants collect grass in a heavily-razed field to test for plant nitrogen, carbon and protein content.

Cease and her team thought the locusts they studied might not form swarms if they had access to well-fertilized vegitation which was high in protein.

Locust killer

“What we found was that the high-protein diet was actually very deleterious to this locust. It caused most of them to die." On the other hand, she says, they found this particular locust thrived on low-protein grasses found on eroded, overgrazed land. "They actually need what's typically thought of as a poor-quality food to build up to high population levels."  

University of Sydney biologist Stephen Simpson notes that, as the Eurasian grasslands have been degraded by  livestock grazing and erosion, locust outbreaks have increased.

"The authors have shown that they are indeed linked," he says. "Understanding this relationship will help in the development of land management practices that reduce the locust threat."

Fertilizing an over-grazed field to raise plants’ protein levels might actually help control this insect, according to Cease's research.

Different impacts

However, the same may not be true for all locusts, cautions Keith Cressman, chief of locust outbreak forecasting at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Researchers have found just the opposite effect in desert locusts, which Cressman says are perhaps the most destructive. “When the insects eat leaves high in [protein], they will reproduce more, they will grow faster, they will increase in number, they will survive better and they’re just a healthier locust.”

Cressman says the relationships between livestock, land and locusts are complex and differ from place to place. More research will be needed to sort them out completely.

Cease plans studies in Africa on how grazing practices affect other species of locusts.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More