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The Rangeland Journal Abstracts

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 These abstracts are from the latest issue of The Rangeland Journal.


The Rangeland Journal

Vol. 39 (3)

July, 2017

Impact of grazing system on rangeland condition and grazing capacity in Zimbabwe

J. Gusha A D , M. Masocha B and P. H. Mugabe C

A Department of Paraclinical Veterinary Studies, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP 167, Mt Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.

B Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP 167, Mt Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.

C Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP 167, Mt Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 219-225
Submitted: 28 December 2015  Accepted: 1 June 2017   Published: 23 June 2017


The influence of different land tenure and rangeland management systems on rangeland condition and livestock grazing capacity in African rangelands is not well documented. A rangeland condition assessment was carried out at 15 sites located in the communal grazing system, small-scale commercial grazing system and the large-scale commercial grazing system in Zimbabwe. Rangeland indicators assessed were: floristic composition, herbaceous biomass yield, shrub stem density and grazing capacity. Grass species composition and forage value were analysed using PROC FREQ procedure of SAS 9.3. Fisher’s exact test was performed to test for independence of the grass variables between grazing systems. A one-way ANOVA was used to test for significant differences (P < 0.05) in floristic composition, shrub stem density, herbaceous biomass yield and grazing capacity among the three grazing systems. It was observed that communal rangelands had significantly high levels of woody species, unpalatable wiry grass species, low biomass yield and were dominated by the invading shrub Helichyrsum kraussii compared with the other rangeland management systems. These results suggest that if control measures are not put in place, livestock production may not be feasible in communal rangelands in the near future because of high levels of rangeland deterioration when compared with the commercially managed rangelands. Furthermore, the observed high stem density of unpalatable woody species and the low grazing capacity of communal rangelands affect livestock production, a primary source of livelihood. This warrants a change in rangeland management system in favour of the rest-rotation grazing system, which is beneficial to both livestock and the range.

Additional keywords: domestic animal production, forage quality, grassland ecosystems, grazing management system.


Grazing pressure impacts on two Aristida/Bothriochloa native pasture communities of central Queensland

Trevor J. Hall A E , Paul Jones B , Richard G. Silcock C and Piet G. Filet D

A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

B DAF, Emerald, Qld 4720, Australia.

C Formerly DAF, Brisbane, Qld 4102, Australia.

D Formerly Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Emerald, Qld 4720, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 227-243
Submitted: 19 December 2016  Accepted: 13 May 2017   Published: 9 June 2017


Managing native pastures for sustainable and economic production requires a good understanding of grazing effects on pasture dynamics. The Aristida/Bothriochloa pastures of north-eastern Australia are important for cattle production but little data on grazing pressure impacts on pastures are available to guide management decisions of producers, for land management education programs, or for predictive modelling. To address this deficiency, four different continuous grazing intensities were imposed on woodland communities over 7 or 8 years at two sites: a Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box) and a E. melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) community. Both sites had replicated paddocks grazed at a low, medium or high grazing pressure by +/- tree killing using herbicide (12 paddocks), and 12 ungrazed (nil grazing pressure) 1-ha plots subjected to the same tree-killing contrasts. Grazed paddock areas were fixed and varied between 3.5 and 21.5 ha. Differential grazing pressures were reset each autumn, by adjusting cattle numbers to consume over the next year the equivalent of 0%, 25%, 50% or 75% of the standing pasture mass available.

Pasture grasses suitable as indicators of grazing pressure were identified for both communities. Under low grazing pressure, Themeda triandra (kangaroo grass) was the only desirable grass to show a significant increase in total contribution over time at both sites, although Dichanthium sericeum (Queensland bluegrass) also increased its contribution at the poplar box site. Chloris species increased their contribution as grazing pressure increased. The proportion of less palatable Aristida spp. (wiregrasses) in the pasture was not affected by high grazing pressure, although they increased at low grazing pressure in the poplar box community. There were no consistent changes in native legumes or weedy forb species to any treatment. Increasing grazing pressure had a greater negative effect on pasture mass, ground cover and pasture crown cover area than on changing species composition. Most changes in composition due to grazing pressure were smaller than those associated with variable seasonal rainfall, and were greater in the poplar box community. In above-average rainfall years grazing up to 50% of autumn standing pasture mass had no detrimental effect on composition in treeless poplar box country in the short term. The pastures remained stable or improved in both communities when grazing pressure was set annually to utilise 25% of the standing autumn forage.

Additional keywords: 3P grass, crown basal area, Dichanthium sericeum, eucalypt woodlands, pasture composition, Themeda triandra, utilisation rate.


Flooding effects on grassland species composition in the Azul creek basin, Argentina

Ilda Entraigas A B C E , Natalia Vercelli A C D , Guadalupe Ares A D , Marcelo Varni A and Sofía Zeme A B

A Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology; 3173-25 Showamachi, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 236-0001, Japan.

B Nagoya University; Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan.

C Meiji University; 1-9-1 Eifuku, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 168-8555, Japan.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 245-252
Submitted: 21 April 2016  Accepted: 5 April 2017   Published: 6 June 2017


From a hydrological point of view, the characteristic of the water behaviour in catchments so depressed as the Azul creek basin (centre of Buenos Aires province, Argentina) is water accumulation above the land surface. Thus, water on the ground does not have a single runoff direction, but moves in a disorderly, indefinite and unpredictable way. Considering that periodic floods are a typical disturbance of the region, the objective of this study is to analyse, under field conditions, the transformative effect of prolonged flooding on floristic composition, taking into account the different vegetation patches and their relative position over the relief, the chemical characteristics and the groundwater fluctuation, and some edaphic properties in each site.

Vegetation samplings were performed during three consecutive springs, when the grassland was on different hydrological conditions due to very different rainfall precedent histories. A digital terrain model of the study area was built and a flow accumulation map was created from it. Pits were dug to describe edaphic variables and shallow wells were drilled for monitoring the groundwater characteristics. Flooding, in relation with surface and groundwater dynamics and soil characteristics, is the factor that determines and promotes the differentiation among sites that are relatively close, contiguous and even topographically in almost identical positions. So, some patches of vegetation get their differentiation through the limiting conditions of their soils, while others receive greater influence from the hydrodynamics to which they are subject. Thus, in this study it becomes evident how certain stands are floristically homogenised or differentiated over time according to their flooding conditions and, hence, according to the area from which they receive surface and groundwater flow. Also, results corroborate the way the water regime determines the structure and heterogeneity of plant communities in such environments.

Additional keywords: grasslands, floodplain ecosystems, plant spatial patterns, vegetation dynamics.


Assessing the performance of remotely sensed landscape function indices in semi-arid rangelands of Iran

F. Jafari A , R. Jafari A B and H. Bashari A

A Instituto de Hidrología de Llanuras ‘Dr Eduardo J. Usunoff’, CC 47, (B7300), Azul, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

B CIC, Instituto de Hidrología de Llanuras ‘Dr Eduardo J. Usunoff’, CC 47, (B7300), Azul, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

C Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, CC 47, (B7300), Azul, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

D CONICET, Instituto de Hidrología de Llanuras ‘Dr Eduardo J. Usunoff’, CC 47, (B7300), Azul, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

E Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 253-262
Submitted: 14 June 2016  Accepted: 11 April 2017   Published: 29 May 2017


Appropriate rangeland management requires rangeland function analysis at broad scales. This study aimed to examine the potential of remotely sensed function indices extracted from Landsat data to evaluate the function of semi-arid rangelands in central Iran at the sub-basin scale. Three replicate 30-m transects were randomly placed in the dominant slope direction of 14 selected sub-basins. Various structural properties of vegetation (e.g. number and size of vegetation patches and interpatch lengths) and soil surface were scored based on the landscape function analysis (LFA) procedure. The obtained structural and function indices of the LFA, as well as field percent vegetation cover, were compared with the perpendicular distance vegetation index and remotely sensed function indices including proximity, lacunarity, leakiness index, and weighted mean patch size (WMPS). Remotely sensed function indices were found to be capable of discriminating rangeland landscapes with different conditions. Results showed that the structural properties of vegetation considered in the LFA could also be obtained through WMPS and proximity indices (R >0.76; P < 0.01). All indices, except for lacunarity, had significant correlations with percent vegetation cover and the strongest correlation was observed between WMPS and proximity. Our findings highlight the usefulness and efficiency of function indices derived from satellite data in the estimation of structural and functional properties of rangeland landscapes at the sub-basin scale.

Additional keywords: lacunarity index, leakiness index, LFA, proximity index, semi-arid area, WMPS index.


Application of a livestock weight model to the 2009–2010 winter disaster in Mongolia

Kaoru Tachiiri A D , Hiroshi Komiyama B , Yuki Morinaga C and Masato Shinoda B

- Author Affiliations

A Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology; 3173-25 Showamachi, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 236-0001, Japan.

B Nagoya University; Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan.

C Meiji University; 1-9-1 Eifuku, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 168-8555, Japan.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 263-277
Submitted: 17 October 2016  Accepted: 8 April 2017   Published: 13 June 2017


Mongolia has historically experienced winter disasters (called dzud in Mongolian), which seriously damage the livestock sector. To reduce this damage, it is necessary to foresee the risk in advance. To do so, we applied a process-based livestock weight model based on the balance of energy intake and energy loss, each of which is calculated from environmental conditions. The spatial unit of the model is the province (aimag), and biomass amount derived from remote sensing and climatic data extracted from existing datasets were used as environmental conditions. We ran the model with parameters for sheep and validated the output using data of dzud in 2009–2010 and of the prior and subsequent years, comparing modelled sheep weight with spatial and temporal variation of observed sheep mortality. The model represented the basic feature of observed seasonal sheep weight change, and output smaller weights during 2009–2010, corresponding to the historic dzud of that period. A statistically significant (at 1% level) negative correlation was found between modelled weight and observed mortality. Determining the anomaly from the provincial average for 3 years further improved consistency. The model still has significant residuals, but is expected to contribute to dzud risk assessment by incorporating the effect of short-term, extreme climatic events (e.g. storms) and social factors.

Additional keywords: biomass, energy balance, energy consumption, energy intake, mortality, sheep.


Distribution pattern of poisonous plant species in arid grasslands: a case from Xinjiang, Northwestern China

Hong-Xiang Zhang A , Ming-Li Zhang A B D and Yong Wang A C

A Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China.

B Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China.

C University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China.

D Corresponding author. Email:;

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 279-287
Submitted: 8 March 2016  Accepted: 4 June 2017   Published: 23 June 2017


Poisonous plants threaten the ecosystem health of grasslands and the sustainability of animal husbandry. In arid lands, grassland ecosystems tend to be vulnerable and have been degraded due to the influence of human activities. The total area of the natural grasslands in Xinjiang, a large region in arid north-western China, ranks third in terms of area in China. In the process of grassland degradation, poisonous plants have spread widely and quickly in this region. During recent years, increasing economic losses have been caused by poisonous plants in Xinjiang. Although poisonous plants have been reported at some specific locations, their spatial patterns have rarely been investigated at a large regional scale. To understand the current status of hazards and assess the invasion risks of poisonous plants, we sampled ~150 poisonous plant species from Xinjiang and modelled the present and the future (the 2050s and the 2070s) distribution of 90 species using species distribution modelling. Based on the distribution maps of these poisonous plants, four diversity hotspots of poisonous plants were identified in Xinjiang. The results showed that northern Xinjiang had higher levels of poisonous plant diversity compared with the other part of Xinjiang. The precipitation factors had the most influence on prediction of the poisonous plants distributions in the species distribution modelling. Under the scenarios of future climate change, the results of modelling showed that regions close to the four hotspots of poisonous plants in Xinjiang displayed higher risks of invasion by poisonous plants in the future. In addition, these areas with a high risk of plant invasion will become increasingly large. We propose that policy makers consider implementing monitoring and prevention measures in areas identified as having a high risk of future invasion by poisonous plants.

Additional keywords: arid northwestern China, future environmental changes, grasslands, poisonous plants, Xinjiang.


Relative contribution of climate change and human activities to vegetation degradation and restoration in North Xinjiang, China

Hongfei Yang A B C D , Liang Yao A , Youbao Wang A and Jianlong Li C

A College of Life Sciences, Anhui Normal University, 1 East Beijing Road, Wuhu 241000, Anhui, P.R. China.

B Collaborative Innovation Centre of Recovery and Reconstruction of Degraded Ecosystem in Wanjiang City Belt, Anhui Province, P.R. China.

C School of Life Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, P.R. China.

D Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 39(3) 289-302
Submitted: 5 December 2015  Accepted: 3 June 2017   Published: 23 June 2017


Climate change and human activities are the two primary driving factors in the vegetation degradation process, and the assessment of their relative roles in vegetation degradation is important to understand the driving mechanisms of vegetation degradation. In this study, net primary productivity (NPP) was selected as an indicator to distinguish the relative roles of climate change and human activities in vegetation degradation and restoration from 2001 to 2010 in North Xinjiang, China. The potential NPP and the human appropriation of NPP were served as the indicator of the effects of climate change and human activities in vegetation degradation and restoration. The results showed that human activities were the dominant factor that induced vegetation degradation, accounts for 55% (153 720 km2) of the total degradation, whereas 25% (69 336 km2) of the total degradation resulted from climate change; the combination of human activities and climate change was the cause in 20% (55 429 km2) of the total degradation. In contrast, 61% (66 927 km2) of the total vegetation restoration was dominated by human activities and 29% (31 553 km2) was caused by climate change; the areas of vegetation restoration caused by the combination of human activities and climate change were 10 551 km2 (10%). The relative roles of the two factors possessed great spatial heterogeneity in five vegetation types. Climate dominated degradation expansion and human activities dominated vegetation restoration in forest. Both the degradation and restoration were dominated by human activities in grassland. In desert, degradation was dominated by human activities and vegetation restoration by climate. In cropland and crop/natural vegetation mosaic, degradation was dominated by both human activities and climate change and restoration was dominated by human activities. These results demonstrated that human activities played a demonstrably positive role in vegetation restoration, and ecological restoration projects were effective on mitigating vegetation degradation and also promoting restoration in the southern areas of North Xinjiang.

Additional keywords: driving factors, dynamic, net primary productivity (NPP), vegetation status.


Book Review

The future of pastoralism/L’avenir du pastoralisme/El futurodel pastoreo

Edited by Jakob Zinsstag, Esther Schelling and Bassirou Bonfoh

Scientific and Technical Review35 (2): 1–720. 2016.

World Organisation for Animal Health.

ISSN 0253-1933/ISBN 978-92-9044-996-6/DOI:10.20506/rst.issue.35.2.2521


Reviewed by Ann Waters-BayerA

Additional keywords:adaptation, land tenure, local knowledge, mobility, pastoralist livelihoods, resilience.