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David J. Eldridge, Santiago Soliveres, Matthew A. Bowker and James Val Grazing dampens the positive effects of shrub encroachment on ecosystem functions in a semi-arid woodland Journal of Applied Ecology 50

Article first published online: 4 JUN 2013 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12105

Our results indicate that, contrary to the prevailing opinion, increasing shrub cover was generally associated with increases (or no change) in functional and structural measures indicative of healthy systems. The dampening of the positive effects of shrub cover caused by grazing was site (soil texture) specific, reinforcing the notion that the effects of increasing shrub cover and their interaction with grazing are context dependent. Our study provides the basis for improved understanding and management of shrublands for a number of competing goals and suggests that managing grazing rates is a better strategy than focusing on shrub removal. Using low levels of grazing is likely to maximize the benefits from shrublands, such as the maintenance of biodiversity, water infiltration and C sequestration, while maintaining a productive herbaceous community.

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