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New global maps of livestock distribution

Led by Marius Gilbert -- Interfaculty School of Bioengineering , Université libre de Bruxelles -- and Tim Robinson (ILRI, Kenya), an international researcher team established new global maps of livestock distribution. This study should help to measure the socio-economic, public health and environmental impacts of livestock and poultry, worldwide .

The evaluation of multiple socio- economic, environmental and public health around the livestock sector requires accurate accessible and comprehensive spatial data on the distribution and abundance of livestock.

A team of researchers led by Marius Gilbert, Research Associate of the FNRS -- Laboratory of Biological Control and Spatial Ecology ( LUBIES ) , Interfaculty School of Bioengineering ( EIB , Université libre de Bruxelles) and Tim Robinson (International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya)publishes this week in PLoS ONE new global maps of livestock and poultry.

The map data that accompany this publication are distributed in open access under " Creative Commons " license, and can be viewed or downloaded via the platform "Livestock Geo- wiki" ( / ). This platform will also be used to distribute updates that will regularly be generated as new census data becomes available.

These data should help quantifying different types of impact of the livestock sector and contribute to the development of policies to promote a safe, sustainable and equitable sector development in the coming decades .

Livestock now represents the largest biomass among terrestrial vertebrates, ahead of that of the human population and far ahead of that of wild animals. In Belgium, for example, the density of pigs and poultry per km2 is one of the highest in the world . At the global scale, the growth in demand for livestock products has never been greater than today.

In developing countries, production of milk and meat have grown, from 1970 to today, at an average yearly rates of 5.1 and 3.6 percent respectively and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts that the demand for these commodities will increase by 73 % and 58 % between 2010 and 2030.

The growing livestock sector places ever greater pressure on our natural resources and the environment. It contributes significantly to global environmental change with a recently estimated 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the sector, as well as through environmental problems associated with manure management and disruption of the nitrogen cycle in the soil, water and air.

Also of concern are the public health implications of livestock intensification. The widespread use of antibiotics in livestock, for preventive or curative purposes or as growth promoters directly contributes to the increasing prevalence of resistant strains of bacteria to antibiotics both at local and global levels . In many countries, the pressure on the land available for agriculture and livestock farmers pushes people and their livestock into ever-close proximity to natural areas that constitute the habitat of wildlife, which increases the chances of emergence and spread of zoonotic infectious agents originating in wild animals. Finally, it is estimated today that one in three human in the world -- 1.46 billion -- is obese or overweight, a problem to which of over-consumption of processed products of animal origin contributes significantly .

But livestock are also a source of livelihoods and food security for almost a billion people. As well as the actual economic benefits that livestock already confers on the economies and rural development in poor countries , and potential improvements in food security and nutrition, some 766 million poor farmers living with an income < $ 2 U.S. per day could directly benefit from improvements in this sector. This is particularly the case in mixed farming systems that combine crops and livestock , where livestock serves many functions in terms of animal traction and renewal of soil fertility.

Moreover , livestock grazing systems are also used to produce meat and milk in areas unsuitable for crop production. Today, nearly 800 million people are affected by food insecurity and the number of children affected by stunting due to malnutrition is estimated at 165 million. There has never been a greater need to ensure equitable, efficient and sustainable food production; the livestock sector plays an essential role in achieving this objective . The new global mapping of livestock and poultry will facilitate the assessment of impacts of livestock and to contribute to the development of appropriate policies.

This study is the result of a partnership between the Laboratory of Biological Control and Spatial Ecology (ULB , LUBIES ) , the International Livestock Research Institute ( ILRI , Nairobi , Kenya) , the Food and Agricultural Organization of the united Nations (FAO , Rome, Italy ) and the University of Oxford (United Kingdom). The platform release has been established by our collaborators at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) .

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The above story is based on materials provided by Libre de Bruxelles, Université. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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