Category: Ecological Research
Title: Reframing the Grazing Debate: Evaluating Ecological Sustainability and Bioregional Food Production
Author: Loeser, M.R. , Sisk, T.D. , Crews, T.E. , Olsen, K. , Moran, C.
Subject: Grazing, Mixed-grass prairie
Abstract: The semi-arid grasslands of the Colorado Plateau are productive, diverse, and extensive ecosystems. The majority of these ecosystems have been altered by human land use, primarily through the grazing of domestic livestock, yielding a plethora of environmental and social consequences that are tightly interconnected. From an agroecological perspective, untangling these issues requires both an understanding of the role of livestock grazing in bioregional food production and the effect of that grazing on ecological sustainability. To address the former, we discuss the importance of cattle ranching as a bioregional food source, including estimates of meat production and water use in Arizona. To address the latter, we present data from a long-term project addressing changes in native plant community composition, under a range of alternative livestock management strategies. Our study site near Flagstaff, AZ includes four different management treatments: (1) conventional low-intensity, long-duration grazing rotations; (2) high-intensity, short-duration rotations; (3) very high-impact, very short-duration grazing (to simulate herd impact); and, (4) livestock exclosure. Preliminary results suggest belowground properties are responding more quickly to grazing treatments than aboveground properties. Particular response variables, such as cyanobacteria and diatoms, show a marked short-term response to very high-impact, short-duration grazing, but long-term implications are as yet unknown.
Source: Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau
Publisher: USDI U.S. Geological Survey/FRESC Report Series