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Quantitative Effects of Grazing on Vegetation and Soils Over a Global Range of Environments

Quantitative Effects of Grazing on Vegetation and Soils Over a Global Range of Environments Multiple regression analyses were performed on a worldwide 236—site data set compiled from studies that compared species composition, aboveground net primary production (ANPP), root biomass, and soil nutrients of grazed vs. protected, ungrazed sites. The objective was to quantitatively assess factors relating to differential sensitivities of ecosystems to grazing by large herbivores. A key question in this assessment was: Do empirically based, broad—scale relationships correspond to ecological theories of plant—animal interactions and conceptual frameworks for management of the world's grazing lands? Changes in species composition with grazing were primarily a function of ANPP and the evolutionary history of grazing of the site, with level of consumption third in importance. Changes in species composition increased with increasing productivity and with longer, more intense evolutionary histories of grazing. These three variables explained >50% of the variance in the species response of grasslands or grasslands—plus—shrublands to grazing, even though methods of measurement and grazing systems varied among studies. Years of protection from grazing was a significant variable only in the model for shrublands. Similar variables entered models of change in the dominant species with grazing. As with species composition, sensitivities of change in dominant species were greater to varying ecosystem—environmental variables than to varying grazing variables, from low to high values. Increase of the dominant species under grazing were predicted under some conditions, and decreases were more likely among bunch grasses than other life—forms and more likely among perennials than annuals. The response of shrublands was different from that of grasslands, both in terms of species composition and the dominant species. Our analyses support the perception of grazing as a factor in the conversion of grasslands to less desirable shrublands, but also suggest that we may be inadvertently grazing shrublands more intensively than grasslands. Percentage differences in ANPP between grazed and ungrazed sites decreased with increasingly long evolutionary histories of grazing and increased with increasing ANPP, levels of consumption, or years of treatment. Although most effects of grazing on ANPP were negative, some were not, and the statistical models predicted increases in ANPP with grazing under conditions of long evolutionary history, low consumption, few years of treatment, and low ANPP for grasslands—plus—shrublands. The data and the models support the controversial hypothesis that grazing can increase ANPP in some situations. Similar to species variables, percentage differences in ANPP between grazed and ungrazed treatments were more sensitive to varying ecosystem—environmental variables than to varying grazing variables. Within levels not considered to be abusive "overgrazing," the geographical location where grazing occurs may be more important than how many animals are grazed or how intensively an area is grazed. Counter to the commonly held view that grazing negatively impacts root systems, there was no relationship between difference in ANPP with grazing and difference in root mass; as many positive as negative differences occurred, even though most ANPP differences were negative. Further, there was a weak relationship between change in species composition and change in ANPP, and no relationship with root mass, soil organic matter, or soil nitrogen. All three belowground variables displayed both positive and negative values in response to grazing. Current management of much of the world's grazing lands based on species composition criteria may lead to erroneous conclusions concerning the long—term ability of a system to sustain productivity. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Ecological Monographs Wiley

Quantitative Effects of Grazing on Vegetation and Soils Over a Global Range of Environments

Ecological Monographs , Volume 63 (4) – Feb 1, 1993

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References (22)

Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
© Ecological Society of America
ISSN
0012-9615
eISSN
1557-7015
DOI
10.2307/2937150
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Multiple regression analyses were performed on a worldwide 236—site data set compiled from studies that compared species composition, aboveground net primary production (ANPP), root biomass, and soil nutrients of grazed vs. protected, ungrazed sites. The objective was to quantitatively assess factors relating to differential sensitivities of ecosystems to grazing by large herbivores. A key question in this assessment was: Do empirically based, broad—scale relationships correspond to ecological theories of plant—animal interactions and conceptual frameworks for management of the world's grazing lands? Changes in species composition with grazing were primarily a function of ANPP and the evolutionary history of grazing of the site, with level of consumption third in importance. Changes in species composition increased with increasing productivity and with longer, more intense evolutionary histories of grazing. These three variables explained >50% of the variance in the species response of grasslands or grasslands—plus—shrublands to grazing, even though methods of measurement and grazing systems varied among studies. Years of protection from grazing was a significant variable only in the model for shrublands. Similar variables entered models of change in the dominant species with grazing. As with species composition, sensitivities of change in dominant species were greater to varying ecosystem—environmental variables than to varying grazing variables, from low to high values. Increase of the dominant species under grazing were predicted under some conditions, and decreases were more likely among bunch grasses than other life—forms and more likely among perennials than annuals. The response of shrublands was different from that of grasslands, both in terms of species composition and the dominant species. Our analyses support the perception of grazing as a factor in the conversion of grasslands to less desirable shrublands, but also suggest that we may be inadvertently grazing shrublands more intensively than grasslands. Percentage differences in ANPP between grazed and ungrazed sites decreased with increasingly long evolutionary histories of grazing and increased with increasing ANPP, levels of consumption, or years of treatment. Although most effects of grazing on ANPP were negative, some were not, and the statistical models predicted increases in ANPP with grazing under conditions of long evolutionary history, low consumption, few years of treatment, and low ANPP for grasslands—plus—shrublands. The data and the models support the controversial hypothesis that grazing can increase ANPP in some situations. Similar to species variables, percentage differences in ANPP between grazed and ungrazed treatments were more sensitive to varying ecosystem—environmental variables than to varying grazing variables. Within levels not considered to be abusive "overgrazing," the geographical location where grazing occurs may be more important than how many animals are grazed or how intensively an area is grazed. Counter to the commonly held view that grazing negatively impacts root systems, there was no relationship between difference in ANPP with grazing and difference in root mass; as many positive as negative differences occurred, even though most ANPP differences were negative. Further, there was a weak relationship between change in species composition and change in ANPP, and no relationship with root mass, soil organic matter, or soil nitrogen. All three belowground variables displayed both positive and negative values in response to grazing. Current management of much of the world's grazing lands based on species composition criteria may lead to erroneous conclusions concerning the long—term ability of a system to sustain productivity.

Journal

Ecological MonographsWiley

Published: Feb 1, 1993

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