Cactus: provision of ecosystem goods, services and function
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Mounir Louhaichi, Hloniphani Moyo, Sawsan Hassan. (26/4/2018). Cactus: provision of ecosystem goods, services and function. Wageningen, Netherlands: The Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP).
The dry areas grow 44% of the world’s food and keep half of the world’s livestock. Hence, the productivity in these areas can be increased by the cultivation of adapted crops that can thrive in these conditions. Spineless cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) is an ideal candidate that can grow in the driest and most degraded land. Cactus is a multipurpose crop with significant ecological, economic and social potential. However, this crop continue to receive limited scientific, political and media attention. The main objective of this study is to highlight the benefits and ecosystem services generated from cactus pear.. Cactus can play significant roles in the livelihood of small holder farmers. It can be used as fruits for human consumption (8 metric tons of fruit production at 2.000 plant ha-1), as a vegetable crop (80-90 t ha-1 at 40,000 plants ha-1) and as fodder for livestock (25 t ha-1 yr -1). It is the source of wide range of medical products and by- products such as seed oil, cosmetic, industries and processed fruits. Cactus pear can be used for soil and water erosion control, regulation of climate through carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation. Cacti are also capable of taking up relatively large amounts of CO2 with respect to water loss by transpiration (4 to 10 mmol CO2 per mol H2O, compared to 1 to 1.5 mmol in C3 plants). Consequently, a major shift in the role of cactus pear is necessary, which aims at balancing environmental conservation, farming systems with socio-economic development. Promoting the ecological, economic and social benefits of cacti and strengthening the technical capacity of human resources will benefit the fodder availability and by-products from cactus production