Forbs And Shrubs As Components Of Natural Ecosystems

Forbs and shrubs are often important components of natural ecosystems and grasslands. It is important to preserve and maintain the genetic and ecological integrity of these ecosystems, because plant diversity promotes stability during climatic extremes. Social and economic pressures in many areas of the world are leading to conversion of these lands into high-value cash crops. Using such lands for pasture or hay for livestock can provide economic benefit for the area while maintaining the integrity of the grassland.[1]

Forbs and shrubs also contribute to special niche markets, allowing for value-added agricultural products, even where improved pastures are possible. An example is the Hyblean region of southeastern Italy.[2] Here pastures typically contain 30 40 plant species, with grasses and legumes being only a small component. Cheese produced in this region, Ragusano cheese, was traditionally made from milk of cows grazing in these pastures. As herds moved to total mixed rations and diets based on monoculture to increase milk yields, cheese quality declined. It is believed that the flavor compounds in the forbs consumed on pasture were responsible for the unique flavor attributes of Ragusano cheese.[2]

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