Authors: A SCHMITZ, B TONN, A K SCHOPPNER, J ISSELSTEIN
Engaging farmers as citizen scientists may be a cost-efficient way of answering applied research questions aimed at more sustainable land use. We used a citizen science approach with German horse farmers with a dual goal. Firstly, we tested the practicability of this approach for answering ‘real-life’ questions in variable agricultural land-use systems. Secondly, we were interested in the knowledge it can provide about locomotion of horses on pasture and the
management factors influencing this behaviour. Out of 165 volunteers, we selected 40 participants to record locomotion of two horses on pasture and provide information on their horse husbandry and pasture management. We obtained complete records for three recording days per horse from 28 participants, resulting in a dataset on more individual horses than any other Global Positioning System study published in the last 30 years. Time spent walking was greatest for horses kept in box stall stables, and walking distance decreased with increasing grazing time. This suggests that restrictions in pasture access may increase stress on grass swards through running and trampling, severely challenging sustainable pasture management. Our study, involving simple technology, clear instructions and rigorous quality assessment, demonstrates the potential of citizen science activities involving land managers in agricultural research.
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