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close this bookThe Improvement of Tropical and Subtropical Rangelands (BOSTID)
close this folderPart I
close this folderThe nature of tropical and subtropical rangelands
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View the documentRange classification
View the documentSocial system-ecosystem interactions
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This report focuses on areas of low and undependable precipitation within the tropics and subtropics. (1) Much of the area is occupied by savannahs and thorn-bushlands, often characterized by a rich diversity of grasses. The prominence of grasses in tropical rangelands in many instances reflects the repeated use of fire in hunting or range renewal (Sauer, 1952), as well as the coevolution of grasses and wild herbivores (Harris, 1969). Substantial tracts of forest are associated with tropical rangelands in some regions; in others, extensive swamps created by the seasonal overbank flooding of exotic rivers are features of considerable regional importance.

Tropical rangelands differ greatly from rangelands in temperate regions, and social adaptations to these differences are reflected in the management of range resources. Differences of climate (Trewartha, 1954), soils (Sanchez, 1975), vegetation (Davy, 1938; French, 1957), and other environmental factors are well documented and generally well understood. The management of tropical rangelands is further affected by the prevalence of livestock diseases. Rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia, anthrax, east-coast fever, trypanosomiasis, and sheep pox have historically taken heavy tolls in the tropics (Pratt and Gwynne, 1977). Strategies to blunt the impact of disease include increasing livestock holdings to levels that assure the survival of a breeding nucleus. The relatively high levels of social, economic, and political differentiation within the tropics similarly affect the exploitation and management of range resources.