Treading effects on erosion at a particular site depend on the soil type, soil water content, and the intensity of livestock use, with most severe impacts occurring when the soil is wet, the herbaceous canopy has been grazed to less than 20 mm in height, and the stocking rate is high. Compacted trails, usually manifest as an array of radial paths leading to areas to which livestock must return frequently, result in concentrated runoff, which can eventually create gullies. Common causes of path formation are poor distribution of limiting resources (such as water) or regular movement through gates associated with an intensive rotational grazing system. Another source of compacted trails are tracks formed by repeated passage of vehicles across hilly range and pasture lands. Since these tracks/roads are often poorly (if at all) designed or maintained, they can become a serious source of runoff-induced erosion.
Another way livestock trampling increases the erosion risk is by churning dry soil to dust, which increases the susceptibility of soil particles to wind and water erosion. Trampling a crusted soil can produce the benefits of incorporating mulch and seeds into the soil. However, temporarily breaking soil crusts by trampling does not reduce runoff or erosion risk because the impact of falling raindrops reseals the soil surface after several minutes. Soil crusting problems can ultimately be overcome only through enhancing soil structure by improving vegetation cover and facilitating an increase in soil organic matter.
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