Management Implications

Unrestricted livestock grazing can have potentially negative impacts on biodiversity. However, grazing systems can be established that mitigate the potential negative effects and may enhance some aspects of diversity. Grazing systems can provide rest or deferment from defoliation, thereby providing improved physiological and ecological fitness for grazed plants. This improved fitness levels the competition playing field between grazed and ungrazed plants and can prevent species composition changes. Declines in habitat diversity can then be prevented.

Livestock do not graze rangelands or pastures uniformly. Preferred foraging areas are selected because of a variety of characteristics. Likewise, other areas are avoided for another set of characteristics, at least until preferred areas are fully exploited and animals are forced to go elsewhere. This is a typical occurrence on rangelands simply because of the physical characteristics of the landscape: steepness of slopes, limited water availability, or areas of unpalatable forages. Variation in vertical structure and canopy cover of the herb layer, as well as areas of species composition change, all occur as a result of an uneven pattern of grazing across a landscape. The disturbance of grazing has the potential to improve the habitat diversity of a community and a landscape, and this knowledge can be incorporated into specifically designed grazing systems. In fact strategic livestock grazing systems can be designed as manipulative tools to create specific habitats.[4'5]

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