The Role of Socio-Economic Determinants of Horse Farms for Grassland Management, Vegetation Composition and Ecological Value
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/17714
Socio-economic context is increasingly seen as a decisive factor for sustainable agricultural land use. The high prevalence of part-time farming and frequent lack of formal agricultural education within the equine sector are often seen as reasons why horse-grazed pastures do not fulfill their biodiversity potential. In spite of the substantial variability within horse farming, little is known about the relationship of socio-economic determinants with vegetation characteristics of horse-grazed grasslands. We surveyed 122 horse farms in Germany, classifying them into four socio-economic classes according to farm income type and farm managers’ agricultural education. We recorded farm structure parameters, grassland management practices and vegetation characteristics. Socio-economic class partly explained the great variability in farm structure that we observed. In contrast to our expectation, income type and agricultural education did not distinctly affect grassland management and were neither directly nor indirectly related to vegetation characteristics. Part-time farming and lack of agricultural education thus did not adversely affect the ecological value of horse-grazed grasslands. By contrast, both farm structure and paddock level management affected grassland vegetation and ecological value. Therefore, the socio-economic context of horse farms should be addressed in further research with strategies targeting the development of sustainable grassland management in horse keeping.
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