Pasture management in semi-arid tropical woodlands: Effects on species diversity



Abstract The effects of pasture management options (sowing introduced legumes and grasses, timber treatment, applying fertilizer, cultivation before sowing, and stocking rate) on species diversity were measured at two experimental sites (Hillgrove and Cardigan) near Charters Towers, northeast Queensland. Species were divided into three groups (sown, native and exotic) and diversity was measured as species density (number of species recorded in each plot and number of species/quadrat) annually from 1982 to 1992. The responses of individual native and naturalized species to treatment were also determined. All management options affected diversity but the responses varied with site and season, and with the different measurement scales. The density of sown species either increased or was unaffected by all the management options; there were no significant decreases. The density of native species showed both positive and negative responses; it increased at high stocking rates and with tree killing at Hillgrove, and decreased with pasture sowing and cultivation. The density of exotic species increased as stocking rate was increased and decreased when pastures were sown (although not at the quadrat scale at Hillgrove). Overall the most diverse vegetation was on plots grazed at high stocking rates; at the plot scale these were native pastures but at the quadrat scale the sown pastures had more species. Among the native and naturalized species, only Portulaca spp. were more frequent on the oversown plots than the native pasture plots; 48% (Hillgrove) and 68% (Cardigan) of the species were less frequent on the oversown plots. Fertilizer application had little effect on species frequencies, while timber treatment resulted in both increases and decreases in frequency of a small number of species. The species were divided into four groups on the basis of their responses to stocking rate: a grazing-sensitive group (e.g. Themeda triandra), two grazing-tolerant groups which either slightly decreased (e.g. Chrysopogon fallax) or slightly increased (e.g. Sida spinosa) in frequency as stocking rate increased, and a fourth group of species which were frequent only at high stocking rates (e.g. Bothriochloa pertusa). There were no close relationships between herbage yield and species density.