Rodent pests and the delocalized environmental costs of a growing thirst for milk

Researchers from IREC and from the universities of Valladolid and Aberdeen point out in a paper published in "Global Change Biology" that the environmental implications of a growing thirst for milk in China and in other Eastern countries go beyond carbon and nitrogen footprints, water or land requirements. A growing demand for milk has large environmental impacts on biodiversity associated with cascading impacts of converting land to dairy feed production, such as alfalfa. Specifically, the researchers highlight that rodents thrive in alfalfa crops typically destined for export to booming eastern markets. Rodents very often reach outbreak densities and cause economical losses to farmers in milk producing as well as in exporting nations. Globally, the main management interventions attempting to control rodent pests are based on the use of rodenticdes which are themselves very damaging to biodiversity. Moreover, these damages in turn resonate beyond dairy feed producing regions through animal migration and are an overlooked part of the transferred environmental burden. Stricter global regulations on the use of rodenticides are therefore needed to minimize environmental burdens caused by a growing thirst for milk in China and elsewhere.

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Luque-Larena JJ, Mougeot F, Arroyo B, Lambin X (2018) “Got rats?” Global environmental costs of thirst for milk include acute biodiversity impacts linked to dairy feed production. Global Change Biology, online, doi:10.1111/gcb.14170

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