According to the situations encountered in extensified breeding farms, three important pieces of ecological knowledge allow to understand grassland ecosystem dynamics, in order to settle sustainable pasture management in both production and environmental aims. i) The interaction between vegetation and herbivores must be considered as well as the long term adaptation between vegetation status and stocking rate, or as the instantaneous modulation of grassland production and structure under herbivore predation. ii) The dynamics of botanical composition must be represented in terms of sensitivity and resilience to perturbations or to management changes, which condition primary phytomass production and accumulation. Extensifying grassland management induces reversible effects on the seasonal dynamics of the phytomass, but cumulative negative effects on botanical composition. Species strategies are involved in the dynamics of the spatial structure and diversity of the vegetation. iii) The management of the nitrogen cycle allows to manipulate in a long term the soil nitrogen supplying capacity, for improving the perennity of sowed swards, or making easier the control of the phytomass under low stocking rates. The implications for N leaching are discussed. (C) Elsevier/Inra.
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