This paper is dedicated to the memory of Chiara Coran, a gentle woman, generous friend and clever colleague.
Effects of livestock breed and grazing intensity on grazing systems: 3. Effects on diversity of vegetation
Article first published online: 13 JUN 2007
Grass and Forage Science
Volume 62, Issue 2, pages 172–184, June 2007
How to Cite
Scimone, M., Rook, A. J., Garel, J. P. and Sahin, N. (2007), Effects of livestock breed and grazing intensity on grazing systems: 3. Effects on diversity of vegetation. Grass and Forage Science, 62: 172–184. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2494.2007.00579.x
- Issue published online: 13 JUN 2007
- Article first published online: 13 JUN 2007
- Received 10 April 2006; revised 19 December 2006
- grazing intensity;
- vegetation diversity;
- structural diversity;
- species turnover;
Finding an optimal balance between livestock production and grazing impact on plant biodiversity is an important issue in the design of grazing systems. This paper describes a study of the effect of two levels of grazing intensity combined with different animal breeds on plant biodiversity and sward structural diversity of semi-natural grasslands conducted over 3 years in the United Kingdom (UK), France (F), Germany (D) and Italy (I). There were three treatments at each site: moderate grazing intensity with a commercial breed (MC), lenient grazing intensity with a commercial breed (LC) and lenient grazing intensity with a traditional breed (LT). Grazing livestock were cattle in the UK, F and D, and sheep in I. Only grazing intensity had clear effects on vegetation diversity, the effects depending on site-specific vegetation characteristics. In more diverse pastures with finer scale heterogeneity in F and I, there was little effect of the treatments. In less diverse swards with higher grass dominance and coarse-scale heterogeneity, the number of species decreased from initial levels on the lenient grazing intensity treatments (treatments LC and LT), because of increased dominance of grasses reducing the cover of other species, particularly legumes. The structural diversity of the pastures was more affected by level of grazing intensity than botanical diversity. In more diverse, semi-natural grasslands, structural heterogeneity was not affected by the treatments. In less diverse, more productive swards, structural heterogeneity decreased where large patches were initially found on the UK site, and increased where smaller patches were initially found on the D site. It is concluded that management systems to conserve diversity need to consider carefully the background environment, and that more knowledge of the mechanisms involved is needed at farm and landscape scales.