Australian Rangeland Society

The Rangeland Journal Abstracts

The full text of The Rangeland Journal papers is available at http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/202.htm. Members of The Australian Rangeland Society have access to The Rangeland Journal at no charge through logging in to the Members Area of this website.

The following abstracts are from the latest issues of The Rangeland Journal.

 

The Rangeland Journal Vol. 41 (6) March, 2020 Special Issue

INTRODUCTION

Total grazing pressure – a defining concept for extensive pastoral systems in the southern rangelands of Australia

  1. R.B. HackerA,D, K. SinclairB and C. M. WatersC

– Author Affiliations

ARon Hacker Rangeland Consulting Services, 29 Edward St, Tenambit, NSW 2323, Australia; formerly NSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

BNSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute, 1243 Bruxner Highway, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

CNSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange Agricultural Institute, 1447 Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

DCorresponding author. Email: ron.hacker@crt.net.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 457–460  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19026
Submitted: 2 May 2019  Accepted: 27 August 2019   Published: 12 February 2020

Abstract

In Australia, particularly in the southern rangelands, large populations of native and feral herbivores (including kangaroos, goats, rabbits, pigs, donkeys and camels, depending on the location) co-exist with domestic livestock. In recent decades the concept of ‘total grazing pressure’ has been developed, and widely accepted, to denote the total forage demand of all vertebrate herbivores relative to the forage supply. This concept provides a framework within which both domestic and non-domestic species can be managed to allow commercially viable livestock production, landscape maintenance or restoration and species conservation. The concept should have relevance wherever pest animal control programs, biodiversity conservation, or commercialisation of wildlife are conducted in conjunction with extensive livestock production. The rationale for the compilation of the Special Issue is outlined.

Additional keywords: pest animals, social licence, sustainable land use, vertebrate herbivores.

 

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Land managers and service providers perspectives on the magnitude, impact and management of non-domestic grazing pressure in the southern rangelands of Australia

  1. T. AtkinsonA,E, R. B. HackerB, G. J. MelvilleC and J. Reseigh

– Author Affiliations

ANSW Department of Primary Industries, 34 Hampden Street, Dubbo, NSW 2823, Australia.

BRon Hacker Rangeland Consulting Services, 29 Edward Street, Tenambit, NSW 2323, Australia; formerly New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

CPO Box 9007, Orange East, NSW 2800, Australia; formerly NSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

DRural Solutions SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, PO Box 62, Kyancutta, SA 5651, Australia.

ECorresponding author. Email: trudie.atkinson@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 165–175 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19065
Submitted: 17 August 2019   Accepted: 21 February 2020   Published: 24 March 2020

Abstract

In the southern rangelands of Australia, the capability of land managers to manage total grazing pressure, with support from their service providers, influences resource condition, livestock production and pastoral business profitability. This study investigated the perspectives of people who face the challenge of managing total grazing pressure. Self-administered surveys were used to collect the perspectives of 220 land managers and 46 service providers to total grazing pressure management and the impacts of grazing animals.

Land managers and service providers agreed that, on average, 40 to 50% of the total demand for forage is due to non-domestic animals, that a reduction in this component is required, and that current levels are at least double the desirable level. The majority of respondents (>54%) assessed both livestock and non-domestic animals to have a negative impact on soils and pastures. However, livestock were more frequently assessed to have a positive impact on soils and pastures than non-domestic animals. The respondents commonly suggested that the impact livestock have on soils and pastures depends on management.

Non-domestic animals were assessed by the majority of respondents to have a negative impact on livestock production and business profitability, apart from unmanaged goats where opinions were divided. Both land managers and service providers used the “large negative” category to describe the impact on livestock production and business profitability more frequently for kangaroos than for any other herbivore.

There were significant differences in the respondents’ perspectives among the States. Respondents in New South Wales and Queensland estimated a higher proportion of demand for forage from non-domestic animals than respondents from other States. The respondents in New South Wales also more frequently assessed unmanaged goats to have a positive impact on business profitability compared with the other States.

Total grazing pressure management was rated as a high priority issue by 66% of respondents. ‘Improved kangaroo management’ and ‘fencing’ were the two main factors identified with potential to make a substantial difference to total grazing pressure management in the next ten years.

Additional keywords: camels, donkeys, forage demand, goats, herbivores, kangaroos, livestock production, rabbits, resource condition.

 

Public attitudes to animal welfare and landholder resource limitations: implications for total grazing pressure management in the southern rangelands of Australia

K. SinclairA,B,E, A. L. CurtisB, T. AtkinsonC and R. B. Hacker

– Author Affiliations

ANew South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute, 1243 Bruxner Highway, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

BGraham Centre for Agricultural Innovation (an alliance between Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industries), Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia.

CNSW Department of Primary Industries, 34 Hampden Street, Dubbo, NSW 2830, Australia.

DRon Hacker Rangeland Consulting Services, 29 Edward St, Tenambit, NSW 2323, Australia; formerly NSW Dept of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

ECorresponding author. Email: katrina.sinclair@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 477-484 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19046
Submitted: 2 July 2019   Accepted: 22 January 2020   Published: 28 February 2020

Abstract

Sustainable grazing in the nationally iconic southern rangelands of Australia requires landholders to actively manage the grazing pressure from both domestic livestock and non-domestic herbivores. Landholders have primary responsibility for controlling the non-domestic herbivores. In doing so, they must meet the Australian public’s expectations for resource conservation (mainly a public good) and animal welfare. Governments are also involved in the management of non-domestic herbivores via native and feral animal legislation and control programs. The Australian public will not accept cruelty to animals, perceived or otherwise. In this paper we explore the challenges faced by landholders in their attempts to manage the grazing pressure from native herbivores, particularly kangaroos, feral goats and feral pigs, while meeting the Australian public’s expectations for animal welfare. Landholders typically live on extensive properties and their capacity to manage these is influenced by high climate variability, low labour availability, commodity price fluctuations and limited capital available for investment in new technologies. The additional requirement to reduce the grazing pressure from kangaroos, feral goats and feral pigs is a significant burden on already time-poor landholders. Hence, there is a critical disparity between landholders’ capacity and their responsibility to effectively manage the non-domestic herbivores on their properties. We suggest that current expectations of landholders to deliver public benefits by publicly acceptable practices are unreasonable. Further, we suggest that governments should accept more responsibility for managing non-domestic grazing pressure. The concept of duty of care to land management provides a means by which a more appropriate division of responsibilities between landholders and government could be achieved to ensure that valued attributes of this iconic Australian landscape are retained.

Additional keywords: community, duty of care, expectations, land condition, pest animal control.

Stakeholder judgements of the social acceptability of control practices for kangaroos, unmanaged goats and feral pigs in the south-eastern rangelands of Australia

K. SinclairA,B,E, A. L. CurtisB, R. B. HackerC and T. AtkinsonD

– Author Affiliations

ANew South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute, 1243 Bruxner Highway, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

BGraham Centre for Agricultural Innovation (an alliance between Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industries), Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia.

CRon Hacker Rangeland Consulting Services, 29 Edward Street, Tenambit, NSW 2323, Australia; formerly New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

DNew South Wales Department of Primary Industries, 34 Hampden Street, Dubbo, NSW 2830, Australia.

ECorresponding author. Email: katrina.sinclair@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 485–496 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19047
Submitted: 2 July 2019  Accepted: 2 February 2020  Published: 24 March 2020

Abstract

Total grazing pressure (TGP) is a key driver of productivity in livestock systems in the south-eastern rangelands of Australia. Sustainable grazing in these environments requires the management of grazing pressure from kangaroos, unmanaged goats and feral pigs, as well as livestock. Any practices used to control these species must be socially acceptable. Twenty-four semi-structured interviews with individuals drawn from key stakeholder groups were conducted to assess the acceptability of control practices for each of these species. Commercial shooting was the most acceptable control practice for kangaroos with a much lower acceptance of non-commercial shooting. A trap yard (at a water point) was the most acceptable practice for control of unmanaged goats with shooting least acceptable. Ground shooting, trapping and 1080 baiting were the most acceptable practices for control of feral pigs with dogging least acceptable. The two key criteria for social acceptance of control practices by stakeholder group interviewees were humaneness and effectiveness. Acceptance was also influenced by interviewees’ attitudes towards particular species. Interviewees typically distinguished between control of native wildlife and ‘feral’ animals, and between ‘resource’ animals and ‘pest’ animals. Importantly, support for control programs to manage TGP must be justifiable and employ practices that are socially acceptable.

Additional keywords: assessment, pest animal management, communities of interest, TGP, total grazing pressure.

 

Macropods, feral goats, sheep and cattle.

1. Equivalency in how much they eat

L. Pahl

– Author Affiliation

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, PO Box 102, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia. Email: lester.pahl@daf.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 497–518 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19044
Submitted: 4 July 2019   Accepted: 3 December 2019   Published: 11 February 2020

Abstract

The extent to which goats and cattle eat equivalent amounts of forage as sheep has been based on their maintenance energy requirements (MERs) relative to a 50 kg wether or dry ewe, known as a dry sheep equivalent (DSE). As such, a 50 kg goat was considered 1 DSE and a 450 kg steer as 7–8 DSE. In comparison, the DSE of macropods has been based on their basal metabolic rate (BMR) or energy expenditure of grazing (EEg) relative to those of sheep, with a 50 kg macropod thought to be 0.7 and 0.45 DSE respectively. Based on published energy requirements of goats, macropods and cattle relative to sheep, their DSE values are estimated to be 1.2, 1.0 and 7.6 respectively. However, relative energy requirements may not be the same as relative dry matter intakes (DMIs), due to differences in forage quality, the structure of digestive tracts and selective foraging capabilities. Allometric equations that predict DMI were developed from published liveweights and intakes of sheep, goats, macropods and cattle. Given DMIs when fed high-quality forage, a 50 kg goat was 1 DSE, a 50 kg macropod was 0.7 DSE and a 450 kg steer was 7.6 DSE. Their DMIs were depressed by 35–50% when fed low-quality forage, but a goat remained as 1 DSE, macropods increased to 1.0 DSE and cattle increased to 8.3 DSE. The capacity of macropods to maintain relatively higher DMIs of low-quality forage than sheep is probably due of their faster digesta passage rates and more expandable stomachs. These DMIs of animals provided ad-libitum quantities of similar forages in small pens are likely to differ from their DMIs when selectively grazing heterogeneous rangeland pastures. Under these conditions, sheep select higher-quality diets than cattle, and kangaroos select higher-quality diets than sheep, which increase the relative DMIs of the smaller herbivores. For this reason, a 50 kg macropod is likely to be 1 DSE and consume twice as much forage than previously assumed.

Additional keywords: allometric equations, diet quality, energy requirements, intake.

 

Macropods, feral goats, sheep and cattle.

2. Equivalency in what and where they eat

L. Pahl

– Author Affiliation

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, PO Box 102, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia. Email: lester.pahl@daf.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 519–533 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19059
Submitted: 4 August 2019   Accepted: 31 December 2019   Published: 11 February 2020

 Abstract

The extent to which sheep, cattle, feral goats, red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos, euros and eastern grey kangaroos are equivalent in their use of the Australian southern rangelands is partly dependent on the extent to which their diets and foraging areas overlap. These herbivores all eat large amounts of green annual grasses, ephemeral forbs and the green leaf of perennial grasses when they are available. Overlap in use of these forages by all seven herbivores is concurrent and high. As the abundance of these preferred forages declines, sheep, cattle and feral goats consume increasing amounts of mature perennial grasses and chenopod and non-chenopod perennial forbs. Red kangaroos and western grey kangaroos continue to graze mature perennial grasses longer than sheep, cattle and feral goats, and only switch to perennial forbs when the quantity and quality of perennial grasses are poor. Consequently, overlap in use of perennial forbs by sheep, cattle, feral goats, red kangaroos and western grey kangaroos is sequential and moderately high. When palatable perennial forbs are eaten out, the diets of all herbivores except feral goats comprise predominantly dry perennial grass, and overlap is again concurrent and high. In comparison, feral goats have higher preferences for the browse of a wide range of shrubs and trees, and switch to these much earlier than the other herbivores. When perennial grasses and perennial forbs become scarce, sheep, feral goats and cattle browse large shrubs and trees, and overlap is sequential and high. If climatic conditions remain dry, then red and western grey kangaroos will also browse large shrubs and trees, but overlap between them, sheep, cattle and goats is sequential and low. In contrast to the other herbivores, the diets of euros and eastern grey kangaroos are comprised predominantly of perennial grasses, regardless of climatic conditions. As for diet composition, concurrent overlap in foraging distributions of sheep, cattle, feral goats and the four species of macropods is often low. However, over periods of several months to two or three years, as climatic conditions change, overlap in foraging distributions is sequential and high. While equivalency in what and where these herbivores eat is not quantifiable, it appears to be high overall. This is particularly so for perennial grass, which is the dominant forage for herbivores in the southern rangelands.

Additional keywords: diet composition, diet overlap, food preferences, grazing distribution.

 

Insights on the relationship between total grazing pressure management and sustainable land management: key indicators to verify impacts

 C. M. WatersA,F, S. E. McDonaldB, J. ReseighC, R. GrantD and D. G. BurnsideE

– Author Affiliations

ANSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange Agricultural Institute, 1447 Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

BNSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Mitchell Highway, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

CRural Solutions SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, PO Box 62, Kyancutta, SA 5651, Australia.

DFormerly Western Local Land Services, Cobar, NSW 2835, Australia.

ED.G. Burnside and Associates, 29 Woodsome Street, Mount Lawley, WA 6050, Australia.

FCorresponding author. Email: cathy.waters@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 535–556 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19078
Submitted: 4 October 2019   Accepted: 14 January 2020   Published: 24 March 2020

Abstract

Demonstrating sustainable land management (SLM) requires an understanding of the linkages between grazing management and environmental stewardship. Grazing management practices that incorporate strategic periods of rest are promoted internationally as best practice. However, spatial and temporal trends in unmanaged feral (goat) and native (kangaroo) populations in the southern Australian rangelands can result land managers having, at times, control over less than half the grazing pressure, precluding the ability to rest pastures. Few empirical studies have examined the impacts of total grazing pressure (TGP) on biodiversity and resource condition, while the inability to manage grazing intensity at critical times may result in negative impacts on ground cover, changes in pasture species composition, increased rates of soil loss and reduce the ability for soils to store carbon. The widespread adoption of TGP control through exclusion fencing in the southern Australian rangelands has created unprecedented opportunities to manage total grazing pressure, although there is little direct evidence that this infrastructure leads to more sustainable land management. Here we identify several key indicators that are either outcome- or activity-based that could serve as a basis for verification of the impacts of TGP management. Since TGP is the basic determinant of the impact of herbivory on vegetation it follows that the ability for rangeland pastoral management to demonstrate SLM and environmental stewardship will rely on using evidence-based indicators to support environmental social licence to operate.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, grazing intensity, ground cover, kangaroo and goat populations, soil carbon.

 

Do concerns about kangaroo management represent an existential threat for the red meat industry in the southern Australian rangelands?

  1. K. SinclairA,B,D, A. L. CurtisB and T. AtkinsonC

– Author Affiliations

ANew South Wales Department of Primary Industries, 1243 Bruxner Highway, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

BGraham Centre for Agricultural Innovation (An alliance between Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industries), Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia.

CNSW Department of Primary Industries, 34 Hampden Street, Dubbo, NSW 2830, Australia.

DCorresponding author. Email: katrina.sinclair@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 557–565 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19063
Submitted: 17 August 2019   Accepted: 16 December 2019   Published: 11 February 2020

Abstract

Concerns raised, including those voiced by animal rights and vegan activists, have limited the available practices by landholders in the southern rangelands to effectively control kangaroos and, over time, the actions of these groups may threaten the existence of the livestock industry. This paper draws on interviews with key stakeholders and workshops with technical experts and red meat industry participants to identify strategies to respond to this potentially existential threat. Strategies include establishing platforms and processes for effective stakeholder engagement, establishing a unified and resourced industry ‘voice’ to effectively engage with government and other stakeholders, and ensuring that the industry self-regulates in order to avoid the potential for rogue elements to undermine its credibility and trustworthiness.

Additional keywords: external risk, landholder viability, macropod control, stakeholder engagement.

 

Balancing stakeholder interests in kangaroo management – historical perspectives and future prospects

S. R. McLeodA,C and R. B. HackerB

Author Affiliations

AVertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange Agricultural Institute, Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

BRon Hacker Rangeland Consulting Services, 29 Edward Street, Tenambit, NSW 2323, Australia; formerly NSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

 CCorresponding author. Email: steven.mcleod@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 567–579 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19055
Submitted: 29 July 2019   Accepted: 28 February 2020   Published: 24 March 2020

Abstract

Kangaroos are commercially harvested in five mainland states of Australia, with the harvest regulated by state government wildlife management agencies and overseen by the Commonwealth government. Non-commercial culling is permitted, and although most kangaroos have traditionally been taken by the commercial kangaroo harvesting industry, the proportion taken non-commercially has increased in recent years. Management plans that guide the regulation of the harvest support the management objectives of wildlife management agencies and the kangaroo industry, but the plans do not successfully address the objectives of other stakeholders including pastoralists and animal protection groups, which focus on minimising the grazing impacts of kangaroos and animal welfare issues respectively. We reviewed the objectives outlined in the management plans for kangaroos in the Australian rangelands and examined alternative systems for managing natural resources to identify if improvements to management could be made. Current management plans for kangaroos principally use fixed harvest rates that are responsive only to the state of the kangaroo population and not to changes in the environments in which kangaroos live. This type of management is reactive, and opportunities for improving management of the environment are limited. A viable alternative is active adaptive management which focuses on explicit measurement of the response of the natural system to management actions and use of this information to modify interventions to better meet management objectives. Active adaptive management is appropriate when management actions can strongly influence system state but the impacts of management are uncertain. We argue that the management of kangaroos and the environments in which they live would benefit from the adoption of an active adaptive management approach by wildlife management agencies.

Additional keywords: adaptive management, commercial harvest, non-commercial culling.

 

Prospects for ecologically and socially sustainable management of total grazing pressure in the southern rangelands of Australia

 R. B. HackerA,D, K. SinclairB and L. PahlC

 – Author Affiliations

ARon Hacker Rangeland Consulting Services, 29 Edward Street, Tenambit, NSW 2323, Australia; formerly NSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

BNSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute, 1243 Bruxner Highway, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

CQueensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

DCorresponding author. Email: ron.hacker@crt.net.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(6) 581–586 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ20006
Submitted: 9 February 2020   Accepted: 28 February 2020   Published: 24 March 2020

Abstract

Numerous large herbivore species, both native and exotic, share the southern Australian rangelands with domestic livestock, which often account for only about half of the total grazing pressure. Although each presents its individual challenge to landholders, the management of kangaroos is a key component of ecologically sustainable management of the region because (a) they represent a significant component of the non-domestic grazing pressure, particularly in areas from which dingos and wild dogs have been (partially) removed; (b) commercial harvesting, the means of control that has the highest social acceptability, has been rendered ineffective by the actions of activist groups and market closure due to food safety concerns; (c) the task is largely beyond the capacity of individual landholders; and (d) the same constraints do not apply to other non-domestic components of total grazing pressure. Management of total grazing pressure, and particularly kangaroos, currently represents a case of market failure because the level of management that can be expected of landholders is not consistent with public expectations for resource conservation and animal welfare. Several avenues are available by which kangaroo management could be advanced to achieve both public and private benefits. These include adoption of an active, adaptive management approach to the kangaroo population, establishment of arrangements that will shift the general perception of kangaroos from pest to resource, development of an appropriate incentive framework to achieve desirable landscape outcomes, and continued evaluation of the benefits and costs of cluster fencing. These initiatives require both a greater commitment from governments to address the market failure and a proactive stance by industry to engage stakeholders, self-regulate, and objectively demonstrate environmental and animal welfare credentials.

Additional keywords: duty of care, kangaroos, social licence.

 

 

The Rangeland Journal Vol. 41 (5) December, 2019

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Plant litter decomposition in a semiarid rangeland of Argentina: species and defoliation effects

Mariela L. AmbrosinoA,B, Carlos A. BussoC,D,F, Yanina A. TorresD,E, Leticia S. IthurrartD, Juan M. MartínezC,D, Gabriela MinoldoD, Daniela S. CardilloC and Iris R. PalomoC

– Author Affiliations

AConsejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina.

BFacultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, 6300 Santa Rosa, Provincia de La Pampa, Argentina.

CCERZOS [Centro de Recursos Naturales Renovables de la Zona Semiárida (CONICET)] 8000 Bahía Blanca, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

DDepartamento de Agronomía, Universidad Nacional del Sur (UNS), 8000 Bahía Blanca, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

ECIC (Comisión de Investigaciones Científicas de la Provincia de Buenos Aires) 8000 Bahía Blanca, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

FCorresponding author. Email: carlosbusso1@gmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(5) 371–381 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18070
Submitted: 28 June 2018 Accepted: 18 September 2019 Published: 23 October 2019

Abstract

Plant litter decomposition is critical for terrestrial ecosystem productivity. Poa ligularis Nees ex Steud and Nassella tenuis (Phil.) Barkworth are native, desirable perennial grasses in central Argentina’s rangelands. Amelichloa ambigua (Speg.) Arriaga & Barkworth is only consumed when a better forage is unavailable. Litter traps were used to collect aboveground litter during two years. In March 2012, six bags, each one containing either leaf blade (three bags, one per species) or root litter (three bags, one per species) of the three species were located below the canopy of each replicate plant of the studied species (hereafter referred to as ‘location’). Blade litter bags were located on the soil surface, and root litter bags buried at 10 cm soil depth. This allowed evaluation of the effects of defoliation, the different species canopies and the microbial community activity around their roots on decomposition of above- and belowground litter. For each species, twenty plants were either defoliated twice (5 cm stubble height) or remained undefoliated during the growing season. Litter bags were collected after 2, 7, 13 and 24 months incubation. The study was repeated in 2013, with additional bags were placed for N content determination on leaf blade and root litters. Aboveground litter production was highest in P. ligularis; however, no differences were observed among species when the effect of plant size was eliminated. Aboveground litter of desirable species had higher N content and decomposed faster than that of A. ambigua. The opposite was recorded for root litter. Defoliation had no effect on litter decomposition, but location effects were detected after one year of incubation. Desirable perennial grasses promoted organic matter loss from litter, a key factor in increasing soil fertility in this semiarid ecosystem.

Additional keywords: desirable and undesirable grasses, leaf litter, nitrogen, perennial grasses.

 

The role of seedbanks in invasions by Hyparrhenia hirta (L.) Stapf in Australia

Vinod K. ChejaraA, Paul KristiansenB, R. D. B. (Wal) WhalleyB,C, Brian M. SindelB and Christopher NadolnyB

– Author Affiliations

ANorthern Land Council, 45 Mitchell Street, Darwin, NT 0800, Australia.

BSchool of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

CCorresponding author. Email: rwhalley@une.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(5) 383–392 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19039
Submitted: 12 June 2019 Accepted: 25 August 2019   Published: 2 October 2019

Abstract

Hyparrhenia hirta (L.) Stapf (also known as Coolatai grass, South African bluestem or thatching grass) has become a serious invasive weed in Australia. Within its native range, it is generally regarded as a useful grass particularly for thatching, and seed production is low with a low soil seed bank of from 2 to 200 seeds m–2. Several hundred accessions of H. hirta were deliberately introduced into Australia up until the 1980s and nearly all were discarded because of poor seed production. However, at least one introduction in the 1890s in northern New South Wales (NSW), Australia, has possibly contributed to the present serious weed problem. Annual seed production from roadside stands in northern NSW ranged from 7000 to 92 000 seeds m–2 in 2015. The soil seed bank under dense H. hirta infestations in the same region in 2006 and 2007, was found to be ~30 000 seeds m–2 mostly confined to the top 2 cm, with few dormant seeds and a large reduction of these numbers over the next 12 months when further seed input was prevented. Similar studies of other perennial grass weeds have found seed banks of similar sizes, but dormancy mechanisms ensure that their seed banks last for at least 10 years without further seed input. These results suggest that the present weedy populations of H. hirta have dramatically increased fecundity enabling a large seed bank to develop beneath dense stands. The development of seed dormancy and consequently a long-lived seed bank would make this weed even more difficult to control. Until seed dormancy develops, control of H. hirta in northern NSW can be effective provided further input into the seed bank can be prevented.

Additional keywords: buried seeds, germination, invasive weed, seed distribution, seed fate, seedling emergence, weed ecology.

 

Recovery of Pindan vegetation on seismic lines

Stuart J. DawsonA,E, Peter J. AdamsB, Kris I. WaddingtonC, Katherine E. MosebyD and Patricia A. FlemingA

– Author Affiliations

AEnvironmental and Conservation Sciences, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, WA 6150, Australia.

BInvasive Species and Environment Biosecurity, Department of Primary Industries and Regional

Development, 3 Baron-Hay Ct, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia.

CBuru Energy, Level 2, 16 Ord St, West Perth, WA, Australia.

DSchool of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, High Street, Randwick, NSW 2052, Australia.

ECorresponding author. Email: stuart.dawson102@gmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(5) 393–403 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19051
Submitted: 9 July 2019  Accepted: 11 November 2019   Published: 20 December 2019

Abstract

Exploration for oil and gas resources requiring the clearing of seismic lines has been occurring in central and northern Australia for many years. For example, seismic surveys have been conducted in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia since the 1960s. Despite this being a widespread practice, the recovery of vegetation on seismic lines has not been well studied. To better understand vegetation recovery in the West Kimberley, we conducted vegetation surveys on recovering seismic lines cleared using a raised-blade technique, from ~two months to 4.9 years post-clearing, and compared them to paired control plots. Generally, the vegetation structure and community composition on seismic lines recovered quickly, with no discernible difference between control and seismic plots that were cleared more than 6 months prior. Some individual vegetation characteristics (e.g. understorey density and overstorey cover) recovered slowly, whereas other characteristics such as the number of individual grasses, recovered quickly. Vegetation recovery was confounded by the time since fire, which accounted for differences in vegetation structure at 1–2 years and 3–4 years since clearing. The fast recovery rate observed suggests that raised-blade clearing may not present a lasting impact on Pindan vegetation in the West Kimberley.

Additional keywords: disturbance, fire, recovery, seismic line.

 

Effects of grazing season and stocking rate on seed bank in sheep dung on the semiarid Loess Plateau

Shulin WangA, An HuA, Jing ZhangA and Fujiang HouA,B

– Author Affiliations

AState Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-Ecosystems, Key Laboratory of Grassland Livestock Industry Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture and College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, Gansu, China.

BCorresponding author. Email: cyhoufj@lzu.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 41(5) 405–413 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19036
Submitted: 8 June 2019  Accepted: 16 October 2019  Published: 12 November 2019

Abstract

Endozoochorous dispersal of seeds by livestock has long attracted the attention of grassland scientists, but little is known about seed dispersal via Tan sheep dung on the dry grasslands of the Loess Plateau. We investigated the composition of dung seed bank of Tan sheep under summer and winter rotational grazing regimes at different stocking rates (2.7, 5.3 and 8.7 sheep ha–1), and assessed the relationships between seed mass and shape, egested seedling density and species richness and diversity. We also assessed the effects of stocking rate and grazing season on seedling density and species richness and diversity of the dung seed bank. Seeds of 10 pasture species germinated from Tan sheep dung with only two being annual species (Eragrostis pilosa and Chenopodium glaucum). The mean seed mass (±s.e.) was 2.59 ± 0.23 mg, ranging from 0.10 mg (Cleistogenes songorica) to 10.59 mg (Thermopsis lanceolata), and the mean seed shape index (±s.e.) was 0.10 ± 0.02, ranging from 0.03 (Lespedeza bicolor) to 0.19 (Stipa bungeana). Species richness and diversity and seedling density decreased with increasing seed mass and shape index, suggesting that small, round seeds are most suitable for endozoochorous dispersal. Stocking rate had no effect on the number of germinated seeds that collected from summer or winter grazing pastures. Species richness and diversity and seedling density were greater in winter grazing pastures than in summer grazing pastures. Jaccard coefficients of similarity between the Tan sheep dung bank and aboveground vegetation were <0.5 for all stocking rates, indicating their weak relationship, but were significantly higher for winter than summer grazing. Plant seeds on the Loess Plateau could disperse through Tan sheep grazing, endozoochory can increase the heterogeneity of rotationally grazed plant communities, and this dispersal mode is an adaptation of plants to the harsh environment of the semiarid areas.

Additional keywords: endozoochory, grazing intensity, rangeland management, similarity, Tan sheep.

 

The morphological characteristics and germination of grassland forb species after simulated digestion by sheep in the Tianshan Mountains, China

  1. B. CheA, S. L. WangA, W. H. LuA,B, S. F. JinA, Y. S. ChenA, N. N. LiA and H. R. SunA

– Author Affiliations

ACollege of Animal Science and Technology, Shihezi University, Shihezi, Xinjiang 832000, China.

BCorresponding author. Email: 1051337@qq.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(5) 415–423 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19010
Submitted: 11 March 2019  Accepted: 24 November 2019  Published: 20 December 2019

Abstract

Viable seeds from dry-fruited forbs growing in the Tianshan Mountains of China are often found in livestock dung. However, the effect of ingestion on their morphological characteristics and germination remains unclear. This research assessed the germination of 15 forbs after simulated ingestion (insertion through a rumen fistula) by Kazakh sheep. Seed accessory structures (such as wings, trichomes and mucilage) were digested. Seed length, width and thickness were negatively correlated with digestion time, and 100-seed mass was negatively (but not significantly) correlated with digestion time. The means of seed morphological traits (except for the seed shape index) and germination generally decreased. Germination was negatively correlated with digestion time. Germination of Rumex acetosa, Leontice incerta and Lonicera hispida initially increased and then decreased with increased digestion time, while germination of the other 12 seeds all significantly decreased with increased digestion time. Germination of Plantago depressa, Alyssum desertorum, Lachnoloma lehmannii, Tulipa gesneriana, Tauscheria lasiocarpa and Calligonum rubicundum decreased to zero after 24 h digestion, whereas the other nine seeds still had some level of vigour. Seeds of several forbs survived rumen digestion, indicating the potential for endozoochorous seed dispersal, a dispersal mechanism known to enhance survival in dynamic and harsh desert habitats.

Additional keywords: grazing ecology, seed dormancy, seed ecology, semiarid rangelands.

 

Combined effects of grazing and climate warming drive shrub dominance on the Tibetan Plateau

Katja GeisslerA,G, Sebastian FiedlerA,B,C, Jian NiD, Ulrike HerzschuhE,F and Florian JeltschA,C

– Author Affiliations

AUniversität Potsdam, Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation, Am Mühlenberg 3, 14476 Potsdam, Germany.

BFreie Universität Berlin, Biodiversity/Theoretical Ecology, Institute of Biology, Altensteinstr. 34, 14195 Berlin, Germany.

CBerlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB), 14195 Berlin, Germany.

DCollege of Chemistry and Life Sciences, Zhejiang Normal University, Yingbin Avenue 688, 321004 Jinhua, China.

EAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Telegrafenberg A43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany.

FUniversity of Potsdam, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24-25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany.

GCorresponding author. Email: kgeissle@uni-potsdam.de

The Rangeland Journal 41(5) 425–439 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19027
Submitted: 7 May 2019  Accepted: 4 November 2019  Published: 20 December 2019

Abstract

Encroachment of shrubs into the unique pastoral grassland ecosystems of the Tibetan Plateau has significant impact on ecosystem services, especially forage production. We developed a process-based ecohydrological model to identify the relative importance of the main drivers of shrub encroachment for the alpine meadows within the Qinghai province. Specifically, we explored the effects of summer livestock grazing (intensity and type of livestock) together with the effects of climate warming, including interactions between herbaceous and woody vegetation and feedback loops between soil, water and vegetation. Under current climatic conditions and a traditional herd composition, an increasing grazing intensity above a threshold value of 0.32 ± 0.10 large stock units (LSU) ha–1 day–1 changes the vegetation composition from herbaceous towards a woody and bare soil dominated system. Very high grazing intensity (above 0.8 LSU ha–1 day–1) leads to a complete loss of any vegetation. Under warmer conditions, the vegetation showed a higher resilience against livestock farming. This resilience is enhanced when the herd has a higher browser : grazer ratio. A cooler climate has a shrub encroaching effect, whereas warmer conditions increase the cover of the herbaceous vegetation. This effect was primarily due to season length and an accompanied competitive loss of slower growing shrubs, rather than evaporative water loss leading to less soil water in deeper soil layers for deeper rooting shrubs. If climate warming is driving current shrub encroachment, we conclude it is only indirectly so. It would be manifest by an advancing shrubline and could be regarded as a climatic escape of specific shrub species such as Potentilla fruticosa. Under the recent high intensity of grazing, only herding by more browsing animals can potentially prevent both shrub encroachment and the complete loss of herbaceous vegetation.

Additional keywords: alpine grassland degradation, herd composition, rangeland management, shrub encroachment, shrubline, simulation model.

 

Optimising cattle grazing distribution on rangeland: a systematic review and network analysis

Maggie L. CreamerA,D, Leslie M. RocheB, Kristina M. HorbackA and Tina L. SaitoneC

– Author Affiliations

ADepartment of Animal Sciences; University of California, Davis, 1 Shield Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

BDepartment of Plant Sciences; University of California, Davis, 1 Shield Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

CDepartment of Agricultural and Resource Economics; University of California, Davis, 1 Shield Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

DCorresponding author. Email: mlcreamer@ucdavis.edu

The Rangeland Journal 41(5) 441–455 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19066
Submitted: 21 August 2019  Accepted: 9 December 2019  Published: 20 December 2019

Abstract

Optimising beef cattle (Bos taurus and Bos indicus) distribution, both spatially and temporally, is one of the most significant challenges associated with managing extensive grazed rangelands. Landscape variability and behavioural patterns of cattle may lead to non-uniform and inefficient forage utilisation, damage to critical habitats, and water quality impairment. In order to overcome these distribution challenges, a large suite of tools have been developed and researched to optimise grazing patterns. The objectives of this synthesis paper are 2-fold: (i) to survey and categorise distribution tools; and (ii) to analyse the connectivity of existing research across academic disciplines to identify and isolate knowledge gaps. A systematic literature review revealed specific types of tools and strategies to improve cattle distribution, which were categorised as either ‘animal’ or ‘environmental manipulations’. Animal manipulations utilise aspects of individual behaviour and herd dynamics to alter grazing patterns, whereas environmental manipulations involve transforming aspects of the animal’s surroundings to overcome challenges associated with inefficient distribution. This review reveals that strategies are overwhelmingly studied in isolation, and that there is potential to increase efficacy by integrating multiple strategies to achieve a desired outcome. Motivated by these findings, an author collaboration network analysis was conducted to investigate connectivity within and among author fields of expertise to understand why more integrated management strategies are not currently studied. Authors were classified into five fields of research: animal behaviour science, animal production science, biophysical rangeland science, economics, and other. The network analysis revealed that communities of authors contributing to papers on enhancing cattle distribution are disjointed. These results suggest that in order to fulfil knowledge gaps about the efficacy and cost of management strategies, there needs to be interdisciplinary engagement with particular attention to strategies that integrate animal and environmental manipulations to enhance cattle grazing distribution on extensively grazed landscapes.

Additional keywords: authorship, beef, behaviour, collaboration, economics, interdisciplinary, management, production.

The Rangeland Journal Vol. 41 (4) September, 2019

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Decline in body condition and high drought mortality limit the spread of wild chital deer in north-east Queensland, Australia

Kurt WatterA,C, Greg BaxterA, Michael BrennanB, Anthony PopleB and Peter MurrayA

 – Author Affiliations

ASchool of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland, Gatton Campus, Qld 4343, Australia.

BBiosecurity Queensland, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 41 Boggo Rd, Dutton Park, Qld 4102, Australia.

CCorresponding author. Email: watter@bigpond.net.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 293–299 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18113
Submitted: 26 November 2018  Accepted: 17 June 2019   Published: 10 August 2019

Abstract

Chital deer (Axis axis) were introduced to the Burdekin district of northern Queensland, Australia in 1886. Compared with most successful ungulate introductions they have been slow to expand their distribution and increase in abundance (Moriarty 2004). In this study we consider the possibility that forage shortages caused by periodic droughts have caused sufficient mortalities to limit the increase and spread of chital in the region. The Burdekin district experiences fluctuations in forage according to seasonal rainfall as well as multi-year droughts. This study recorded the decline in body condition, measured as kidney fat index (KFI) and bone marrow fat (BMF), over the wet and dry seasons of two successive years in two chital deer populations during a period when annual rainfall was ~40% below average. We relate the falls in mean KFI from ~45–15%, and mean BMF from ~80–50% to the surveyed decline in chital populations of ~80%. The extent of the decline implies increased mortalities in all age classes as well as reduced reproductive output. We propose that it is likely that chital populations have experienced several such drought mortality events since the 1890s which have contributed to their limited spread.

 Additional keywords: Axis axis, bone marrow fat, kidney fat index.

 

Disturbance by grazing and the presence of rodents facilitates the dominance of the unpalatable grass Achnatherum inebrians in alpine meadows of northern China

Xiang YaoA, Qing ChaiA, Taixiang ChenA, Zhenjiang ChenA, Xuekai WeiA, Gensheng BaoB, Meiling SongB, Wanrong WeiA, Xingxu ZhangA, Chunjie LiA,C and Zhibiao NanA

– Author Affiliations

AState Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-ecosystems, Key Laboratory of Grassland Livestock Industry Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Engineering Research Center of Grassland Industry, Ministry of Education, College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730020, China.

BState Key Laboratory of Plateau Ecology and Agriculture, Qinghai University, Qinghai Academy of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Xining 810016, Qinghai, China.

CCorresponding author. Email: chunjie@lzu.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 301–312 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18096
Submitted: 19 October 2018  Accepted: 6 July 2019   Published: 16 September 2019

Abstract

Unpalatable plants reportedly serve as a biodiversity refuge. However, few studies have been conducted to evaluate how unpalatable plants impact vegetation composition in alpine ecosystems. In the present study we investigated alpine meadows at four sites in four different prefectures on the eastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of Qinghai Province, China. The study sites included meadows grazed by livestock (AO) and others in the vicinity colonised by the unpalatable grass, Achnatherum inebrians (AI), which the livestock avoided. The results showed: (1) palatable graminoid species were significantly different in the two groups: AO plots were dominated by Kobresia spp. (sedges), whereas AI plots were dominated by Poa pratensis and Elymus nutans (grasses); (2) graminoid diversity was significantly higher in AI than in AO plots; (3) grasses had significantly more seeds in AI than in AO plots. We suggest a three-step process for the invasion of A. inebrians into overgrazed alpine meadows in Northern China. First, soil is disturbed by rodents. Second, disturbed soil is invaded by A. inebrians. Third, the A. inebrians community is colonised by palatable grasses such as Elymus, Poa, Leymus and Stipa spp.

Additional keywords: bunchgrass, endophyte, exposed soil, refuge effect.

 

Covariation in root traits of Leymus chinensis in response to grazing in steppe rangeland

Wei XiaotingA, Zhong MengyingA, Liu YuehuaA, Wu RuixinB and Shao XinqingA,C

– Author Affiliations

ADepartment of Grassland Science, College of Animal Science and Technology, China, Agricultural University, Beijing, 100193, China.

BDryland Farming Institute, Hebei Key Laboratory of Crops Drought Resistance, Hengshui, 053000, China.

CCorresponding author. Email: shaoxinqing@163.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 313–322 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18099
Submitted: 27 October 2018  Accepted: 7 May 2019   Published: 14 June 2019

Abstract

Root traits are closely related to nutrient absorption, resource competition and can even influence plant recovery and community succession. Grazing can influence root traits directly through trampling and foraging, or indirectly by changing soil characters. In the present study, a grazing experiment that involved combinations of grazing season (from June to September) and intensity (rest, moderate and heavy) was conducted in steppe rangeland, Inner Mongolia, China to investigate how the root traits of Leymus chinensis respond to different grazing regimes in the case of aboveground miniaturisation after long-term overgrazing. Root traits such as root length, root surface area, specific root length, root tissue density, root links and root topological structure were scanned and analysed using Win RHIZO image analysis software. The results showed that the size of L. chinensis was reduced in response to overgrazing, typically by a lower plant height, total root length (TL), root surface area, root volume, number of tips and number of links (NL, where a link is an unbranched part of a root that connects between either a tip and a branching point or two branching points). However, root diameter and link length, branching angle and topological structure (root structure may either be herringbone or dichotomous) were unaffected by grazing. Most root traits showed strong correlations under moderate grazing intensity, but not under heavy grazing, indicating that grazing changed the relationships among root traits. Relationships between plant height and root traits (total root length and number of links) shifted from positive to negative as grazing intensity increased, and the trade-off between aboveground and belowground traits was an important adaptive strategy of L. chinensis under heavy grazing. Decreasing grazing intensity in the late grazing season could benefit plant recovery, and a rest in the early grazing season would mitigate the damage of root and shoot.

Additional keywords: plant height, root tissue density, root topology structure, specific root length.

 

Impact of forage introduction on cattle grazing practices and crop–livestock systems: a case study in an upland village in northern Laos

Khamphou PhouyyavongA,B,D, Shinsuke TomitaC and Satoshi YokoyamaA

– Author Affiliations

AGraduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Environmental Studies Building, Furo-cho 510, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 4648601, Japan.

BNational Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute.

CAsian Satellite Campuses Institute, Nagoya University Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, 464-8601, Japan.

DCorresponding author. Email: khamphou_p@hotmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 323–334 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18102
Submitted: 1 November 2018  Accepted: 19 May 2019  Published: 10 August 2019

Abstract

Lao smallholders are experiencing livestock grazing land constraints due to resettlement, increasing cattle numbers and commercial cash crop plantations. In this paper we describe changes in cattle grazing systems in an upland village in northern Laos, including the role of forage crops and their effects on cattle productivity. We interviewed 92 Hmong and Khmu households about their migration history, cattle grazing practices, cattle productivity and other livelihood activities. In addition, we measured the heart girths of 231 cattle. We found that the traditional free-range cattle grazing has diverged into three distinct systems incorporating fields fenced to different degrees. Although none of the three systems increased cattle body size, the forage pasture and swidden-farming system successfully increased the grazing capacity compared with other systems. Thus, this method appeared to be the most suitable for Hmong smallholders to manage crop and cattle production in the context of land constraints. Efforts should be made to examine how the newly implemented systems could attenuate villager livelihood and pre-emptively address the problems associated with degrading fallow land.

Additional keywords: crop–livestock system, forage, land use, rotational grazing, swidden farming.

 

Quantitatively assessing the effects of climate change and human activities on ecosystem degradation and restoration in southwest China

  1. G. SunA,F, J. S. WuB, F. LiuA, T. Y. ShaoC, X. B. LiuA, Y. Z. ChenD, X. H. LongC and
  2. RengelE

– Author Affiliations

ACollege of Agro-grassland Science, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210 095, People’s Republic of China.

BInstitute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), 100 081 Beijing, China.

CJiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Marine Biology, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210 095, PR China.

DCollege of Biology and the Environment, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing 210 037, PR China.

ESoil Science and Plant Nutrition, School of Agriculture and Environment, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth, WA 6009, Australia.

FCorresponding author. Email: sunzg@njau.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 335–344 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18111
Submitted: 19 November 2018  Accepted: 5 August 2019  Published: 5 September 2019

Abstract

Identifying the effects of climate change and human activities on the degradation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems is essential for sustainable management of these ecosystems. However, our knowledge of methodology on this topic is limited. To assess the relative contribution of climate change and human activities, actual and potential net primary productivity (NPPa and NPPp respectively), and human appropriation of net primary productivity (HANPP) were calculated and applied to the monitoring of forest, grassland, and cropland ecosystems in Yunnan–Guizhou–Sichuan Provinces, southwest China. We determined annual means of 476 g C m–2 year–1 for NPPa, 1314 g C m–2 year–1 for NPPp, and 849 g C m–2 year–1 for HANPP during the period between 2007 and 2016. Furthermore, the area with an increasing NPPa accounted for 75.12% of the total area of the three ecosystems. Similarly, the areas with increasing NPPp and HANPP accounted for 77.60 and 57.58% of the study area respectively. Furthermore, we found that ~57.58% of areas with ecosystem restored was due to climate change, 23.39% due to human activities, and 19.03% due to the combined effects of human activities and climate change. In contrast, climate change and human activities contributed to 19.47 and 76.36%, respectively, of the areas of degraded ecosystem. Only 4.17% of degraded ecosystem could be attributed to the combined influences of climate change and human activities. We conclude that human activities were mainly responsible for ecosystem degradation, whereas climate change benefitted ecosystem restoration in southwest China in the past decade.

Additional keywords: human appropriation of net primary productivity (HANPP), net primary productivity (NPP), productivity model, terrestrial degradation, terrestrial restoration, Yunnan–Guizhou–Sichuan Provinces, spatial distribution.

 

Vegetative reproduction and root anatomy of Solanum centrale J.M.Black (Australian bush tomato)

  1. L. PattisonA,B,E, L. W. BurgessA, T. L. BellA and M. H. RyderB,C,D

– Author Affiliations

AFaculty of Science, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

BDesert Knowledge CRC, PO Box 3971, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

CCSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB 2, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

DPresent address: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, PMB 1 Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

ECorresponding author. Email: angela.pattison@sydney.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 345–354 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19011
Submitted: 14 March 2019  Accepted: 9 July 2019  Published: 16 September 2019

Abstract

The aim of this study was to describe the morphology, anatomy and function of underground structures associated with colonies of Solanum centrale J.M.Black (Australian bush tomato), a perennial sub-shrub found in arid areas of Australia and an important traditional staple food for Aboriginal people. It is known that this species forms clonal communities, but there is little understanding of the mechanisms of formation in either natural or cultivated situations. The underground connections within seven clonal communities from Central and South Australia were documented and samples of secondary roots, thick lateral roots and stems were examined under both laboratory and glasshouse conditions. Clonal communities were observed at all sites with individual ramets arising from lateral roots (root-suckers) that ranged from 2–10 mm in diameter growing in a network 5–15 cm below the soil surface. Lateral roots have dicotyledonous root anatomy and rapidly resprout to form new clonal ramets. They also have the capacity to accumulate starch in parenchyma cells. The morphology and root-suckering ability resemble those of weedy Solanum spp. from other parts of the world, as well as species from a variety of genera adapted to arid climates. Methods to capitalise on the ability of lateral roots to form clonal ramets in cultivated situations, particularly given the difficulties in establishing crops from seed, are discussed.

Additional keywords: Aboriginal, clonal, domestication, germination, Indigenous, native food.

 

VegMachine.net. online land cover analysis for the Australian rangelands

Terrence S. BeutelA,B, Rebecca TrevithickB, Peter ScarthB and Dan TindallB

– Author Affiliations

ADepartment of Agriculture and Fisheries, PO Box 6014, Red Hill, Rockhampton, Qld 4701, Australia.

BDepartment of Environment and Science, GPO Box 2454, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

CCorresponding author. Email: terry.beutel@daf.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 355–362 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19013
Submitted: 18 March 2019  Accepted: 27 May 2019  Published: 5 August 2019

Abstract

This paper documents the development and use of the VegMachine.net land cover monitoring tool. From 2002 to 2015, VegMachine® software was used by government agencies, natural resource management (NRM) groups and individual pastoralists in northern Australia to assess and benchmark vegetation cover levels. In 2016 the VegMachine.net website was launched to build a wider user base and assure service continuity. Users can now graph historical (1990–) cover on one or more user defined areas of interest (AOI), produce comprehensive paddock-by-paddock property monitoring reports, and view a range of land cover raster images through the website map panel. In its first 32 months of operation 913 users logged 1604 sessions on the website and more than 1000 of the website’s most comprehensive monitoring reports were distributed to users. Levels of use varied; 26% of users (n = 237) have used the website more than once, and within this group a smaller set of regular users (n = 36) have used the site more than five times, in many cases to provide analyses to multiple clients. We outline four case studies that document the significant impact VegMachine.net has had on users including graziers, government agencies, NRM groups and researchers. We also discuss some possible paths forward that could widen the user base and improve retention of first time users.

Additional keywords: environmental change, grazing pressure, land management, rangeland health, rangeland management, remote sensing.

 

Beneficial land sector change in far northern Australia is required and possible – a refutation of McLean and Holmes (2019)

Jeremy Russell-SmithA,B and Kamaljit K. SanghaA

– Author Affiliations

ADarwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

BCorresponding author. Email: jeremy.russell-smith@cdu.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(4) 363–369 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19030
Submitted: 14 May 2019  Accepted: 23 July 2019  Published: 16 September 2019

Abstract

In a recent paper we set out a case for extending current and emerging ecosystem services enterprise opportunities to support sustainable land sector development in far northern Australia (Russell-Smith and Sangha 2018: The Rangeland Journal 40, 315–330. doi:10.1071/RJ18005). In that paper we illustrate very significant economic viability and environmental sustainability issues associated with the current dominant land use, the extensive rangeland beef cattle industry. Our beef enterprise economic assessments drew heavily on reports by Ian McLean, Phil Holmes and colleagues, as well as various other authoritative studies. In a detailed response, McLean and Holmes outline their concerns that, in various instances, we misrepresented their data and that our assessment ‘does not accurately portray the economic performance and contribution of the pastoral sector in northern Australia, nor justify the conclusion that fundamental land sector change is required’ (Comment by McLean and Holmes 2019: The Rangeland Journal, 41, 157–160. doi:10.1071/RJ18098). We acknowledge the singular contributions of those authors for our understanding of the enterprise characteristics and challenges faced by northern beef producers, but further, we: (a) for context, demonstrate the magnitude of the economic and sustainability challenges faced by the majority of northern beef producers as described in a range of pertinent studies including their own; (b) provide a detailed refutation of all eight of their listed concerns; and (c) conclude that available evidence does in fact strongly support the need for exploring diversified enterprise opportunities towards developing a sustainable and inclusive far northern land sector.

Additional keywords: ecosystem services, land use, northern development, pastoral enterprise, rangelands.

 

 

The Rangeland Journal Vol. 41 (3) July 2019 Special Issue

 INTRODUCTION

Rangelands in transition

Russ SinclairA,C, and Martin AndrewB,C

– Author Affiliations

ASchool of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

BMartin Andrew Solutions, 132 Kensington Road, Toorak Gardens, SA 5065, Australia.

CCorresponding authors. Email: russell.sinclair@adelaide.edu.au; mcandrew@myaccess.com.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 161–163  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ19050
Submitted: 7 July 2019  Accepted: 8 July 2019   Published: 23 July 2019

 

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Value of seasonal climate forecasts in reducing economic losses for grazing enterprises: Charters Towers case study

Duc-Anh An-VoA,B,C, Kate Reardon-SmithA,C,D, Shahbaz MushtaqA,C, David CobonA,C,

Shreevatsa KodurC and Roger StoneA,C

 

– Author Affiliations

AUniversity of Southern Queensland, Centre for Applied Climate Sciences, Darling Heights, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

BUniversity of Southern Queensland, Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

CUniversity of Southern Queensland, Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

DCorresponding author. Email: kathryn.reardon-smith@usq.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 165–175 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18004
Submitted: 23 January 2018  Accepted: 29 May 2019   Published: 11 July 2019

Abstract

Seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) have the potential to improve productivity and profitability in agricultural industries, but are often underutilised due to insufficient evidence of the economic value of forecasts and uncertainty about their reliability. In this study we developed a bio-economic model of forecast use, explicitly incorporating forecast uncertainty. Using agricultural systems (ag-systems) production simulation software calibrated with case study information, we simulated pasture growth, herd dynamics and annual economic returns under different climatic conditions. We then employed a regret and value function approach to quantify the potential economic value of using SCFs (at both current and improved accuracy levels) in decision making for a grazing enterprise in north-eastern Queensland, Australia – a region subject to significant seasonal and intra-decadal climate variability. Applying an expected utility economic modelling approach, we show that skilled SCF systems can contribute considerable value to farm level decision making. At the current SCF skill of 62% (derived by correlating the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal and historical climate data) at Charters Towers, an average annual forecast value of AU$4420 (4.25%) was realised for the case study average annual net profit of AU$104000, while a perfect (no regret) forecast system could result in an increased return of AU$13475 per annum (13% of the case study average annual net profit). Continued improvements in the skill and reliability of SCFs is likely to both increase the value of SCFs to agriculture and drive wider uptake of climate forecasts in on-farm decision making. We also anticipate that an integrated framework, such as that developed in this study, may provide a pathway for better communication with end users to support improved understanding and use of forecasts in agricultural decision making and enhanced sustainability of agricultural enterprises.

 

Additional keywords: economic value, grazing management, productivity, profitability, seasonal climate forecast, uncertainty.

 

Social return on investment: application for an Indigenous rangelands context

Leah FeuerherdtA, Stuart PeevorB, Michael ClinchC and Tim MooreA,D

– Author Affiliations

ANatural Resources Alinytjara Wilurara, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, 81 Waymouth St, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

BEIB Consulting, 13 Kalyan Road, Glandore, SA 5037, Australia.

CAnangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Pastoral, PMB 227 Umuwa via Alice Springs, NT 0872, Australia.

DAustralian Integrated Carbon, Level 15/ 25 Bligh St, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.

ECorresponding author. Email: leah.feuerherdt2@sa.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 177-183 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18017
Submitted: 19 February 2018  Accepted: 28 August 2018  Published: 1 November 2018

Abstract

Social Return on Investment (SROI) is an internationally recognised methodology used to measure and value the economic impact of program outcomes. Like a traditional cost-benefit analysis, SROI examines economic outcomes, but also includes the social, environmental and cultural outcomes created by the investment. These outcomes are evaluated against their cost, using financial proxies to estimate their relative economic worth. SROI is particularly valuable in the indigenous natural resource management context, because of the strong ‘value’ or importance of non-economic (particularly cultural) costs and benefits.

The Alinytjara Wilurara Natural Resources Management Board undertook a study of the economic, social, environmental and cultural impacts and benefits of the presence of large feral herbivores in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, in the far north-west of South Australia. Camels, donkeys and horses present significant impacts for the community in terms of vehicle collisions, community health, damage to infrastructure and water pollution, as well as impacts on sites of cultural and spiritual significance to the local communities. With the annual cost impacts incurred by society caused by large feral herbivores in the APY lands valued at $4.2 million and possible dollar value of those animals valued at $140 000, the study found that there was a net cost impact of ~$4 million from not managing the impact of these animals. The study also found significant cultural impacts of large feral herbivores, such as the fouling of natural springs and other culturally sensitive sites, and further analysis would be required to determine the economic cost of these impacts. Investment models that consider a broad range of costs and benefits are considered necessary for Australian rangelands, particularly Indigenous-owned land.

This paper presents a case study of the development of a ranger program that employs local community members to manage the impacts of large feral herbivores that will provide a net benefit to society of ~$3 million every year, aside from the additional benefits of employment and economic participation. The $3-million net benefit accrues from saving human lives and costs associated with vehicle accidents, and reduced management costs and increased income for pastoral areas of the APY Lands. APY community members, and the APY Pastoral business are core beneficiaries; however, there are several external beneficiaries that this SROI approach recognises including the Motor Accident Commission, Health Departments and South Australian Police. The strongly positive SROI in this case presents an excellent co-investment opportunity for agencies whose core focus is on road safety and health. Importantly, the SROI approach to creation of social value can be implemented in a way that is consistent with stated community aspirations for development.

Additional keywords: feral animals, greenhouse gas, pastoralism.

 

Ninety years of change on the TGB Osborn Vegetation Reserve, Koonamore: a unique research opportunity

  1. SinclairA,B and Jose M. FacelliA

– Author Affiliations

ASchool of Biological Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

BCorresponding author. Email: russell.sinclair@adelaide.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 185–187 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18022
Submitted: 26 February 2018  Accepted: 25 August 2018  Published: 31 October 2018

Abstract

The TGB Osborn Vegetation Reserve, on Koonamore station in the NE pastoral area of South Australia, is the longest-running vegetation monitoring project of its type in Australia. In 1925, a 4-km2 rectangle in a heavily overgrazed area was fenced to exclude rabbits and sheep, and permanent quadrats and photo-points set up to record changes. The area is predominantly chenopod shrubland, with an open woodland tree layer. After the initial elimination of rabbits, control slackened and rabbit numbers increased until the 1970s, when intense elimination efforts resumed, together with the arrival of myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease viruses. Consequently, the reserve has had 50 years without sheep, followed by 40 years virtually without either sheep or rabbits. Changes over that time have been very striking, and they have been recorded regularly via mapped quadrats and photopoints.

The objective of this paper is to highlight opportunities for making use of this database for researching several interesting ecological questions.

Additional keywords: grazing pressure, long-term monitoring, rabbits, sheep.

 

An uncertain future: climate resilience of first-generation ranchers

Kate Munden-DixonA,D, Kenneth TateB, Bethany CuttsC and Leslie RocheB

– Author Affiliations

AGeography Graduate Group, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

BDepartment of Plant Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

CDepartment of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.

DCorresponding author. Email: kmundendixon@ucdavis.edu

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 189–196 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18023
Submitted: 1 March 2018  Accepted: 11 August 2018  Published: 10 September 2018

Abstract

Policymakers and scholars agree that the aging and declining number of ranchers is a serious problem for the future of ranching and range management. Studies show that recruiting and retaining new ranchers is difficult due to a complex mix of start-up costs, knowledge and skill requirements, and regulatory barriers. While research suggests that first-generation farmers are different demographically and require individualised information, there is limited research on first-generation ranchers (FGRs); at best they are generalised as beginning farmers in research and outreach programs. This is surprising given ranchers’ unique knowledge requirements relating to the production of food and fibre, and the management of vast areas of public and private land. Based on a rangeland decision-making survey of 507 California Cattlemen’s Association members, this paper examines similarities and divergences in socioeconomic factors, management practices, drought adaptation strategies, information needs, and values between FGRs and multigenerational ranchers (MGRs). Survey results indicate FGRs and MGRs are not statistically different demographically and have similar values; however, key differences include FGRs using fewer information sources about ranching, fewer general management practices, and fewer drought adaptation practices. FGRs are also more susceptible to drought, and are underserved by organisations. Their vulnerability is particularly concerning, as many have limited drought experience, are more likely to take risks, and are less likely to find value and/or participate in ranching organisations. The future of rangelands requires that organisations interested in conserving rangelands and supporting ranchers re-evaluate assumptions about why FGRs and MGRs have different information needs beyond simplistic demographic identity, and instead focus on their affinity as FGRs in order to understand the complexity of the processes underlying these differences. We end with suggestions for a research agenda to support the climate resiliency of FGRs and increase the efficacy of support organisations.

 

Additional keywords: climate change and adaptation, resilience of rangeland systems, socioecological systems, rangeland management.

 

‘This country just hangs tight’: perspectives on managing land degradation and climate change in far west NSW

 

Emily BerryA,D, Graciela MetternichtB and Alex BaumberC

 

– Author Affiliations

ASchool of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

BSchool of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, PANGEA Centre, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

CFaculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation, University of Technology Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia.

DCorresponding author. Email: emilyberry1@gmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 197–210 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18030
Submitted: 12 March 2018  Accepted: 8 October 2018  Published: 27 November 2018

Abstract

Discussions of land degradation often display a disconnect between global and local scales. Although global-scale discussions often focus on measuring and reversing land degradation through metrics and policy measures, local-scale discussions can highlight a diversity of viewpoints and the importance of local knowledge and context-specific strategies for sustainable land management. Similarly, although scientific studies clearly link anthropogenic climate change to land degradation as both cause and consequence, the connection may not be so clear for local rangelands communities due to the complex temporal and spatial scales of change and management in such environments.

In research conducted in October 2015, we interviewed 18 stakeholders in the far west of New South Wales about their perspectives on sustainable land management. The results revealed highly variable views on what constitutes land degradation, its causes and appropriate responses. For the pastoral land managers, the most important sign of good land management was the maintenance of groundcover, through the management of total grazing pressure. Participants viewed overgrazing as a contributor to land degradation in some cases and they identified episodes of land degradation in the region. However, other more contentious factors were also highlighted, such as wind erosion, grazing by goats and kangaroos and the spread of undesired ‘invasive native scrub’ at the expense of more desirable pasture, and alternative views that these can offer productive benefits.

Although few participants were concerned about anthropogenic climate change, many described their rangeland management styles as adaptive to the fluctuations of the climate, regardless of the reasons for these variations. Rather than focusing on whether landholders ‘believe in’ climate change or agree on common definitions or measurement approaches for land degradation, these results suggest that their culture of adaptation may provide a strong basis for coping with an uncertain future. The culture of adaption developed through managing land in a highly variable climate may help even if the specific conditions that landholders need to adapt to are unlike those experienced in living memory. Such an approach requires scientific and expert knowledge to be integrated alongside the context-specific knowledge, values and existing management strategies of local stakeholders.

Additional keywords: adaptation, climate change and adaptation, environmental change, social-ecological systems, rangeland management.

 

Evaluating the potential financial contributions of carbon farming to grazing enterprises in Western NSW

 

Geoff CockfieldA,B,D, Uttam ShresthaA and Cathy WatersC

 

– Author Affiliations

ACentre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

BSchool of Commerce, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

CClimate Research, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

DCorresponding author. Email: Geoff.Cockfield@usq.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 211–223 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18032
Submitted: 16 March 2018  Accepted: 19 February 2019  Published: 5 April 2019

Abstract

This article reports on modelling of the farm-level financial implications of changing land use from rangelands grazing to ‘carbon farming’ (vegetation-based carbon sequestration) in north-western New South Wales, Australia. Four model farm businesses were created by combining information from existing carbon projects funded under the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), data from surveys of farm businesses in the study regions and biomass estimations from the pasture growth model, GRASP. Scenarios for each of the businesses were: baseline (current grazing system); clearing vegetation to increase carrying capacity; establishing a carbon project; and establishing a carbon project and reinvesting some of the additional income in exclusion fencing to increase carrying capacity on non-project areas. The carbon project scenarios were based on either of two approved carbon sequestration methodologies within the ERF: avoided deforestation; and human-induced regeneration. In comparing the financial outcomes of these scenarios across the modelled businesses, we found potential advantages for landholders in having projects where livestock carrying capacity was at medium to low levels for the study region and where woody vegetation biomass potential was medium to high for the region. The case for sequestration projects on land with higher carrying capacity and therefore higher opportunity cost was much less compelling. In most cases, reinvestment in exclusion fencing resulted in similar financial returns to just having a carbon project but farm business income increased in later years.

Additional keywords: exclusion fencing, farm business income, greenhouse gas emissions, livestock production, payments for environmental services.

 

Long Paddock: climate risk and grazing information for Australian rangelands and grazing communities

  1. StoneA,B, R. Dalla PozzaA, J. CarterA and G. McKeonA

 

 

– Author Affiliations

 

AQueensland Government, Environment and Science, GPO Box 2454, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

BCorresponding author. Email: Grant.Stone@qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 225–232 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18036
Submitted: 22 March 2018  Accepted: 23 January 2019   Published: 7 March 2019

Abstract

The Queensland Government’s Long Paddock website has been redeveloped on Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform, to provide Australian rangelands and grazing communities (i.e. rural landholders, managers, pastoralists (graziers), researchers, advisors, students, consultants and extension providers) with easier access to seasonal climate and pasture condition information. The website provides free, tailored information and services to support management decisions to maximise productivity, while maintaining the natural resource base. For example, historical rainfall and pasture analyses (i.e. maps, posters and data) have been developed to assist in communicating the risk of multi-year droughts that are a feature of Queensland’s highly variable climate.

Additional keywords: carrying capacity, climate, decision support tools, extension, grazing.

 

Looking beyond the D.U.S.T. – building resilient rangeland communities

Dana KellyA,C and David PhelpsB

 

– Author Affiliations

ADana Kelly Consulting, PO Box 4868, Toowoomba East, Qld 4350, Australia.

BChair Western Queensland Drought Committee (WQDC), PO Box 496, Longreach, Qld 4730, Australia.

CCorresponding author. Email: d.kelly@uq.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 233–250 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18047
Submitted: 21 April 2018  Accepted: 1 February 2019   Published: 26 April 2019

Abstract

The role of towns and small business is poorly understood, yet towns are vital for the long-term viability of communities in rural and remote Australia.

This case study in the central western region of Queensland (CWQ) examines the impacts of drought on rural towns and how to build a resilient regional community and alleviate hardship. Evidence was collected during drought from town businesses through surveys, interviews and a public meeting in 2017.

Towns in CWQ are especially exposed to the risks of drought, as approximately half of the businesses are directly linked to agriculture. Townspeople are major contributors to social cohesion and resilience in rural and regional communities, which are often service and maintenance centres of nationally important infrastructure such as roads for inter-state freight transport and tourism. Drought and declining grazier incomes have led to reduced spending in towns. Populations have dropped sharply, as itinerant agricultural workers leave the region. The complex economic and social flow-on impacts of drought have resulted in lower socioeconomic resilience. The majority of community members interviewed expressed a desire to build secure livelihoods, which echoes other research where existing and new rangelands livelihoods are seen as contributing to the success of the nation, a common global desire. Local organisations in CWQ display innovative business and community strategies. Future actions need to support and build on these initiatives.

A framework with the acronym D.U.S.T. has been developed, with associated actions aimed at building resilience in these communities. D.U.S.T. is appropriate for this often-dusty region, and stands for: D. Decide to act; U. Understand the context; S. Support and develop local capacities and institutions; and T. Transform regional governance.

The key for decision-makers is to work with local people who understand the contextual complexity and local needs. Actions need to be based on principles of adaptability, equity and inclusiveness, and working with the whole of the community. Building on existing collaborations and innovations as well as transforming governance and secure funding arrangements are needed. Lessons from the communities in CWQ may help other rural and remote regions build resilience to cope with the unpredictable financial, social and environmental future.

Additional keywords: drought, collaboration, engaged governance, rural towns, transformation.

 

Overcoming drought vulnerability in rangeland communities: lessons from central-western Queensland

David PhelpsA,C and Dana KellyB

 

– Author Affiliations

ADepartment of Agriculture and Fisheries, Longreach, Qld 4730, Australia.

BDana Kelly Consulting, PO Box 4868, Toowoomba East, Qld 4350, Australia.

CCorresponding author. Email: david.phelps@daf.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 251–270 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18052
Submitted: 1 May 2018  Accepted: 8 June 2019   Published: 23 July 2019

Abstract

Drought and climate variability are an increasing global problem, especially in rangelands which may lack robust socioeconomic systems. Vulnerability is being applied in drought and climate change policy theory, by describing exposure and sensitivity factors, and adaptive capacity. In this paper we examine these vulnerability factors in central-western Queensland (CWQ), Australia, as a case study to test the idea that vulnerability and resilience must be considered together to build strong and enduring rangeland communities. The region’s economy and employment are strongly coupled with rain-fed agriculture. Drought is a key risk to CWQ communities, with 13 extended droughts recorded since 1898. The region has been officially in drought since 2013 following well below-average rainfall, and remains in drought in 2019. The impact has led to reductions in town business turnover of 30–60%, loss of livelihoods and outmigration of 20%. Outmigration corresponds to the recent periods of drought. Social networks have been destabilised, highlighting that the cascading impacts of drought are complex, interrelated and affect the whole community. Regionally led responses have helped to re-build social cohesion, provide mental health support and stimulate economic activity and employment. These actions provide examples of a systemic, whole-of-community approach, that (1) captures place-based advantages; (2) enhances internal and external socioeconomic networks; (3) engages meaningfully through multi-level consultation; and (4) seeks to build sustained financial investment. A common theme of success is partnerships which provide external support for regionally-identified issues and solutions. There has been considerable investment of public, philanthropic and private funds in drought relief and infrastructure programs. This has occurred through a whole-of-community approach, and suggests a move towards policy which aims to build long-term regional resilience. CWQ has linked vulnerability and resilience by asking of both internally and externally led drought relief ‘will this action build or undermine community resilience’. This approach could also be applied to the design of drought policies and responses in other rangeland regions.

Additional keywords: adaptation, pastoralist, resilience, regional policy, rural communities, small business.

 

Australian rangeland futures: time now for systemic responses to interconnected challenges

 

Barney ForanA,H, Mark Stafford SmithB, Don BurnsideC, Martin AndrewD, Don BlesingE, Kate ForrestF and John TaylorG

 

– Author Affiliations

AInstitute of Land Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia.

BCSIRO Land and Water, PO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

CD.G. Burnside & Associates, 29 Woodsome Street, Mount Lawley, WA 6050, Australia.

DMartin Andrew Solutions, 132 Kensington Road, Toorak Gardens, SA 5065, Australia.

EAgri-Vision Advisory, PO Box 149, Kent Town, SA 5067, Australia.

FRangeland NRM Alliance, 92 Galah St, Longreach, Qld 4730, Australia.

GRangelands Australia, 37 Pioneer Crescent, Bellbowrie, Qld 4070, Australia.

HCorresponding author. Email: bforan@csu.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 41(3) 271–292 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18105
Submitted: 12 November 2018  Accepted: 19 June 2019   Published: 19 July 2019

Abstract

Australia’s rangelands contain wildlands, relatively intact biodiversity, widespread Indigenous cultures, pastoral and mining industries all set in past and present events and mythologies. The nature of risks and threats to these rangelands is increasingly global and systemic. Future policy frameworks must acknowledge this and act accordingly. We collate current key information on land tenures and land uses, people and domestic livestock in Australian rangelands, and discuss five perspectives on how the rangelands are changing that should inform the development of integrated policy: climate and environmental change, the southern rangelands, the northern rangelands, Indigenous Australia, and governance and management. From these perspectives we argue that more attention must be paid to: ensuring a social licence to operate across a range of uses, acknowledging and supporting a younger more Indigenous population, implementing positive aspects of technological innovation, halting capital and governance leakages, and building human capacity. A recommended set of systemic responses should therefore (i) address governance issues consistently and comprehensively, (ii) ensure that new technologies can foster the delivery of sustainable livelihoods, and (iii) focus capacity building on a community of industries where knowledge is built for the long-term, and do all three of these with an eye to the changing demographics of the rangelands.

Additional keywords: governance, human capacity, Indigenous, livelihoods, remoteness, sustainability.

The Rangeland Journal Vol. 41 (1) – February, 2019

Rotational grazing and exclosure improves grassland condition of the halophytic steppe in Flooding Pampa (Argentina) compared with continuous grazing

María Cristina VecchioA,D, V. A. BolañosA,B, R. A. GolluscioB,C and A. M. RodríguezC

– Author Affiliations

AUniversidad Nacional de La Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales, La Plata, Argentina.

BCONICET-Universidad de Buenos Aires, Instituto de Investigaciones Ecológicas y Fisiológicas Vinculadas a la Agricultura (IFEVA), Buenos Aires, Argentina.

CUniversidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Agronomía, Departamento de Producción Animal, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

DCorresponding author. Email: cristinave08@hotmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 1–12  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18016

Submitted: 17 February 2018  Accepted: 12 December 2018  Published: 8 February 2019

Abstract

The most common grazing management applied on rangelands is continuous grazing. However, it can cause negative changes in vegetation structure and ecosystem functioning, leading to rangeland degradation. In Flooding Pampa rangelands, scientific evidence in favour of rotational over continuous grazing was developed on the humid mesophytic meadow and the humid prairie communities, but not on the halophytic steppe community. We evaluated the changes in species composition, richness and diversity, vegetation and litter cover, functional group composition and forage quality during 8 years in halophytic steppe subjected to both continuous or rotational grazing, and exclusion from grazing. Grazing exclusion and a rotational grazing system caused significant changes in the vegetation structure compared with continuous grazing. These treatments increased vegetation and litter cover, the contribution of summer and annual and perennial winter grasses, all them of high forage value, and encouraged the appearance of several grasses adapted to fertile, well drained and non-saline soils. Because of these structural changes, species richness, diversity and pastoral value increased in the halophytic steppe of the Flooding Pampa, in a manner previously demonstrated in other grassland communities of this region.

Additional keywords: cattle, continuous grazing, exclosure, halomorphic soil, pastoral value, rangeland management. 

Creating sustainable future landscapes: a role for landscape ecology in the rangelands of Northern Australia

Diane PearsonA,E,F, Muhammad NawazB and Robert WassonC,D

– Author Affiliations

ASchool of Environment, Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia.

BDepartment of Geography, National University of Singapore, 1 Arts Link, Kent Ridge, Singapore 117570.

CCollege of Science and Technology, James Cook University, Smithfield, Qld 4878, Australia.

DInstitute of Water Policy, National University of Singapore, 469A Bukit Timah Road, Tower Block, Singapore 259770.

ESchool of Agriculture and Environment, College of Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.

FCorresponding author. Email: D.Pearson@massey.ac.nz 

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 13–21  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18040

Submitted: 28 March 2018  Accepted: 7 November 2018  Published: 15 January 2019

Abstract

The principles and theory of landscape ecology can be used with careful spatial planning to maintain ecosystem function and services in the face of urbanisation and agricultural intensification of the rangelands. In the largely undisturbed catchment of Darwin harbour in Northern Australia, an area of cattle grazing, some agriculture and small urban areas, seasonally waterlogged grassy valley floors known as dambos are demonstrated to be of vital importance for the minimisation of fine sediment transport to the harbour. If the dambos are disturbed fine sediment from them will have potentially detrimental effects on the biodiversity of the upper harbour and may also add pollutants contained in the fine sediment. The incorporation of such important landscape features into landscape planning in rangelands worldwide is critical to the creation of sustainable future landscapes. Techniques that monitor condition and function of the landscape coupled with spatially informed design are able to assist in preserving the important ecosystem services that natural features can provide and thus have a significant contribution to make in landscape sustainability.

Additional keywords: dambos, geomorphological processes, landscape design, landscape function, landscape planning.

The composition, richness, and evenness of seedlings from the soil seed bank of a semi-arid steppe in northern China are affected by long-term stocking rates of sheep and rainfall variation

A. HuA, J. ZhangA, X. J. ChenA, J. P. MillnerB, S. H. ChangA, S. BowatteA and F. J. HouA,C

– Author Affiliations

AState Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-Ecosystems, Key Laboratory of Grassland Livestock Industry Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture, China, College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, Gansu, China.

BMassey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

CCorresponding author. Email: cyhoufj@lzu.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 23–32  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18025

Submitted: 6 March 2018 Accepted: 14 December 2018 Published: 22 January 2019

Abstract

The soil seed bank has a large influence on the potential for grassland restoration. This study aimed to characterise the composition, density, richness, and evenness of seedlings emerging from the soil seed bank under different sheep stocking rates, in a summer grazing system, in semi-arid China. Soil was sampled in 2015, a year with extreme drought conditions and in 2016, a normal rainfall year. The soil seed bank was assessed by measuring seedling emergence under laboratory conditions. Comprising 16 species, 85.4% of the seedlings were concentrated within a depth of 0–5 cm. Drought significantly reduced the density and richness of the seedlings. Grazing increased the richness of seedlings by increasing the richness of aboveground species, and grazing significantly reduced the evenness of the seedlings by reducing the evenness of aboveground species. Drought significantly reduced the similarities between the seedlings and the aboveground species, whereas grazing increased similarities in both years. This study revealed that the density and richness of seedlings were higher in higher stocking rate in drought year. We conclude that negative effects on density, richness and evenness of the seedlings caused by drought can be overcome by rotational grazing especially at higher stocking rate.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, drought, grasslands, grazing intensity, seed banks.

Impacts of bracteole removal and seeding rate on seedling emergence of halophyte shrubs: implications for rangeland rehabilitation in arid environments

Mounir LouhaichiA,B,H, Sawsan HassanA, Ali Mekki MissaouiC, Serkan AtesB, Steven L. PetersenD, Abdoul Aziz NianeE, Slim SlimF and Azaiez Ouled BelgacemG

– Author Affiliations

AInternational Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), PO Box 950764 – Amman, Jordan.

BDepartment of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA.

CCentre for Applied Genetic Technologies, University of Georgia, 111 Riverbend Road, Athens, GA 30602, USA.

DDepartment of Plant and Wildlife Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA.

EInternational Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), PO Box 114/5055 – Beirut, Lebanon.

FHigher School of Agriculture of Mateur, University of Carthage, Mateur, Tunisia.

GICARDA, Arabian Peninsula Regional Program, PO Box 13979 – Dubai, UAE.

HCorresponding author. Email: m.louhaichi@cgiar.org

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 33–41  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18064

Submitted: 4 December 2017 Accepted: 8 January 2019 Published: 12 February 2019

Abstract

Direct seeding techniques often result in unsatisfactory outcomes in rangeland rehabilitation, primarily because of low seedling emergence and poor establishment. Seed processing techniques aimed at improving seedling emergence have gained interest by pasture managers. The purpose of this study was to investigate the combined effects of bracteole removal and seeding rate on seedling emergence in seven halophytic species: Atriplex halimus, A. canescens, A. leucoclada, A. nummularia, A. lentiformis, Salsola vermiculata and Haloxylon aphyllum under semiarid conditions in Tel Hadya (Syria). Each of these species was evaluated for seedling emergence under two seed treatments (bracteoles removed and non-removed bracteoles) with three seeding rates (10, 30 and 60 seeds per pot), in a completely randomised block design. The results showed a positive effect of seed treatment on seedling emergence for all studied species. The native A. halimus had the highest emergence percentages whereas the introduced A. mummularia, had the lowest. However, there were no significant effects of seeding rates on seedling emergence. These results showed that bracteole removal could improve germination and seedling emergence, and potentially increase the rate of establishment of the species studied. Therefore, when implementing rangeland rehabilitation projects, bracteole removal needs to be considered. The native S. vermiculata should be recommended for direct seeding in the West Asia and North Africa region given its high seedling emergence, known high palatability, nutritive value, and high auto-regeneration performance.

Additional keywords: arid and semiarid ecosystems, direct seeding, indigenous plants, rangeland restoration, seed scarification treatments.

Local community involvement in forest rangeland management: case study of compensation on forest area closed to grazing in Morocco

Said MoukrimA,B,E, Said LahssiniC, Mustapha NaggarB, Hicham LahlaoiD, Nabil RifaiB, Moustapha ArahouA and Laïla RhaziA

– Author Affiliations

AMohammed V University in Rabat, Faculty of Sciences, Research Center of Plant and Microbial Biotechnologies, Biodiversity and Environment, Avenue Ibn-Battouta B.P. 1014 RP, Agdal, Rabat, Morocco.

BWater and Forest Department, 3 Rue Harroun Errachid, Agdal, Rabat, Morocco.

CNational School of Forest Engineers, Department of Forestry Development, Bd My Youssef BP. 511. Tabriquet, Salé, Morocco.

DHassan II University in Casablanca, Faculty of Sciences Ain Chock, Geosciences Laboratory, Morocco.

ECorresponding author. Email: maildemoukrim@gmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 43–53  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17119

Submitted: 9 November 2017 Accepted: 17 October 2018 Published: 28 November 2018

Abstract

Unmanaged livestock grazing is the greatest threat to the health and sustainability of forest rangelands in Morocco. Historically, communities have developed ingenious traditional systems in order to regulate natural resource uses. However, currently most of these principles have been undermined and have led to open access of a common pool resource. To achieve viable solutions to unmanaged livestock grazing in forestlands, local community involvement was introduced in Moroccan forestry early on. The main objective of this study was to show the importance of an original mechanism called compensation on forest area closed to grazing, carried out by the Forestry Department to involve communities that have the right of use in the restoration of forest rangeland ecosystems. It also aims to assess the mechanism’s technical and socioeconomic impacts.

Analysis of the process of community participation in the case of Moroccan forest management revealed that it was perceived and implemented in different ways, and considered either as an end in itself or (rarely) as a means to an end. Forest managers and use-rights holders appreciate the mechanism of compensation for forest areas closed to grazing. Since the implementation of this program, the number of grazing association members has increased. This trend has been associated with a positive impact on the reduction in the number of offences and on improving reforestation success rates. In addition, remote sensing showed a positive trend in the relative density and the evolution of the health of vegetation in the areas covered by this mechanism. This program helped to develop consensus in forest ecosystem restoration that will help managers to break the vicious cycle of unmanaged grazing, and promote a new collective stewardship of this precious land. As a result of this success, this program should be replicated and valued. It should be presented in the future as a tool for natural resource conservation with unintended human capital development benefits.

Additional keywords: association, collect earth, compensation, North Africa, sustainable management, traditional institutions ‘Jmaa’.

Biosolids application increases grasshopper abundance in the short term in a northern Canadian grassland

Emma S. GaudreaultA, Robert G. LalondeA, Kirstie LawsonA, Frank I. DoyleB and Karen E. HodgesA,C

– Author Affiliations

ADepartment of Biology, University of British Columbia Okanagan, 1177 Research Road, Kelowna, BC. V1V 1V7, Canada.

BWildlife Dynamics Consulting, 5575 Kleanza Drive, Terrace, BC. V8G 0A7, Canada.

CCorresponding author. Email: karen.hodges@ubc.ca

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 55–64  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18075

Submitted: 28 July 2018 Accepted: 12 December 2018 Published: 24 January 2019

Abstract

Degraded grasslands are common worldwide, often due to overgrazing by livestock; such degradation often reduces plant growth and water quality, while increasing soil erosion, wildfires, and invasive species. Recent restoration efforts have used organic amendments to increase soil nutrients, improve water retention, and increase forage production. Biosolids, the stabilised and pathogen-treated remains from wastewater treatment plants, have strong impacts on soil nutrients and plant growth, but there is very little known about impacts on higher trophic levels. We worked on northern grasslands in British Columbia, Canada, to test whether biosolids applications changed grasshopper abundances, body sizes, or species richness. We used hoop transects to measure density and timed net samples to determine richness and evenness. There were significantly higher (~3.8×) grasshopper densities at sites where biosolids were applied 1–2 years before sampling compared with control sites or sites where biosolids were applied in the year of sampling. Tibia lengths of grasshoppers varied with treatment, species, and sex, but there was no clear signature of biosolids leading to bigger body sizes. There were no significant differences in species richness or equitability in relation to the year of the biosolids application. Collectively, our results show that biosolids have large impacts on grasshopper densities, but no clear impact on community structure or body size. Because grasshoppers can be dominant insect herbivores and are critical prey for many birds and mammals, our results suggest biosolids could be an important tool in the context of site restoration or efforts to improve populations of insectivorous vertebrates.

Additional keywords: abundance, biosolids, British Columbia, diversity, grasshoppers, grasslands.

Prediction of the livestock carrying capacity using neural network in the meadow steppe

T. S. WuA,B,C, H. P. FuA,B,G, G. JinD, H. F. WuE and H. M. BaiA,B,F

– Author Affiliations

ASchool of Microelectronics, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China.

BTianjin Key Laboratory of Imaging and Sensing Microelectronic Technology, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China.

CSchool of Physics and Electronic Information, Hulunbuir College, Hulunbuir 021008, China.

DHulunbuir City Hailar Meteorological Bureau, Hulunbuir 021000, China.

EChengdu Ganide Technology, Chengdu 610073, China.

FSchool of Mathematics and Statistics, Hulunbuir College, Hulunbuir 021008, China.

GCorresponding author. Email: hpfu@tju.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 65–72  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18058

Submitted: 15 May 2018 Accepted: 21 October 2018 Published: 3 January 2019

Abstract

In order to predict the livestock carrying capacity in meadow steppe, a method using back propagation neural network is proposed based on the meteorological data and the remote-sensing data of Normalised Difference Vegetation Index. In the proposed method, back propagation neural network was first utilised to build a behavioural model to forecast precipitation during the grass-growing season (June–July–August) from 1961 to 2015. Second, the relationship between precipitation and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index during the grass-growing season from 2000 to 2015 was modelled with the help of back propagation neural network. The prediction results demonstrate that the proposed back propagation neural network-based model is effective in the forecast of precipitation and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index. Thus, an accurate prediction of livestock carrying capacity is achieved based on the proposed back propagation neural network-based model. In short, this work can be used to improve the utilisation of grassland and prevent the occurrence of vegetation degradation by overgrazing in drought years for arid and semiarid grasslands.

Additional keywords: BPNN, NDVI, precipitation, prediction.

Grazing promotes plant functional diversity in alpine meadows on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Yu LiA, Shikui DongA,B,H, Qingzhu GaoC,H, Yong ZhangD, Shiliang LiuA, David SwiftE, Jinbo ZhaoA, Hasbagan GanjurjavC, Guozheng HuC, Xuexia WangF, Yulong YanC,G, Xujuan CaoC, Wenhan LiC, Wenrong LuoC, Zhenzhen ZhaoA, Shuai LiAand Xiaoxia GaoA

– Author Affiliations

AState Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation, School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.

BDepartment of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-3001, USA.

CInstitute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.

DNational Plateau Wetland Research Centre, College of Wetlands, Southwest Forestry University, Kunming, 650224, China.

ENatural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499, USA.

FBeijing Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, Beijing 100097, China.

GSchool of Ecology and Environment, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot, 010021, China.

HCorresponding authors. Email: dongshikui@ sina.com; gaoqzh@ami.ac.cn

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 73–81  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18091

Submitted: 11 September 2018 Accepted: 2 November 2018 Published: 8 January 2019

Abstract

Grazing exclosures and rotational grazing have been extensively applied to prevent grassland degradation and to restore grassland ecosystem function and services. The mechanisms associated with changes in alpine plant traits, and functional diversity under different grazing regimes have not been deeply explored. We examined the variations of plant leaf traits and functional diversity of an alpine meadow under different grazing regimes in a 3-year experiment. The results showed, after 3 years of yak grazing, that the coverage of Stipa capillata increased, whereas that of Kobresia pygmaea decreased under grazing exclosure. Stipa capillata had a lower ratio of leaf nitrogen content to phosphorus content (N : P) under grazing exclosure than under rotational grazing and continuous grazing, whereas Kobresia pygmaea showed no significant differences among grazing treatments. Among grazing regimes, the specific leaf area (SLA) of Stipa capillata was similar, whereas that of Kobresia pygmaea was higher under grazing exclosure. At the interspecific level, leaf area and weight were negatively correlated with SLA, whereas leaf carbon (C) content, leaf N content, leaf C : P and leaf N : P were negatively related to leaf P content and leaf C : N. These findings indicated that growth-defence trade-off strategies might lead to variations in plant traits and coverage. Large-leaved species, due to high maintenance costs, were less commonly distributed in the community, and they were better defended and unpalatable to yaks due to lower SLA, this formed the species coverage distribution pattern of the community. Various N and P utilisation efficiency of different species indicated diverse economic resources utilisation strategies might be due to niche differentiation in the community. Plots that had been excluded from grazing had the lowest functional richness, evenness, and divergence. Rotational and continuous grazing were equivalent in promoting alpine plant functional diversity.

Additional keywords: leaf N : P ratio, rotational grazing, specific leaf area.

Mechanisms regulating spatial changes in grassland productivity following nutrient addition in northern China

Na ZhaoA,B, Xinqing ShaoB, Chao ChenC, Jiangwen FanD and Kun WangB,E

– Author Affiliations

AKey Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, P.R. China.

BDepartment of Grassland Science, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, P.R. China.

CBeijing Research and Development Centre for Grass and Environment, Beijing 100097, P.R. China.

DInstitute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, P.R. China.

ECorresponding author. Email: wangkun@cau.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 83–96  https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ18049

Submitted: 26 April 2018 Accepted: 18 January 2019 Published: 15 January 2019

Abstract

Plant biomass is the most fundamental component of ecosystems. The spatial stability of plant biomass is important, and the mechanisms regulating plant biomass spatial variability in variable environments are a central focus of ecology. However, they have rarely been explored. We conducted an experiment to test how diversity and functional traits affected variation in biomass and community response to nutrient availability in three plant communities: natural; forb, legume, and bunchgrass; and rhizomatous grass. We found that biomass stability rarely changed with increasing taxonomic species richness and functional group richness but declined with increasing Shannon–Weiner indices (the combination of richness and evenness) and functional trait diversity. However, differences in plant species composition generated different responses in both the amount and spatial variation of biomass following nutrient addition. Because rhizomatous grasses are weakly competitive in nutrient-poor conditions, interaction between resource-acquisitive (grass) and stress-tolerant (forb) species in the natural community conferred the greatest overall stability. The rapid nutrient acquisition ability of the rhizomatous grass Leymus chinensis was stimulated in nutrient-abundant conditions. The functional traits of this dominant species overrode the diversity interaction effects of the natural and forb, legume, and bunchgrass communities. This ultimately resulted in the rhizomatous grass community being the most stable. Community stability was strongly determined by a few key species, particularly rhizomatous grasses, rather than by the average response of all species, thereby supporting the mass ratio hypothesis. Our results indicated that rhizomatous grasses could provide vegetative productivity to reduce soil loss and prevent degradation of L. chinensis-dominant grassland. Thus, protecting specific species is critical for maintaining rangeland ecosystem functions. Moreover, the conservation importance of grasses, non-leguminous forbs, legumes, or even rare species could not be ignored. Maintaining stability mechanisms in natural grasslands is complex, and therefore, further studies need to focus on finding a unified mechanism that can regulate appreciable biomass variation under shifting environmental conditions.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, ecosystem functions, fertiliser, functional trait, species composition.