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The intensification of agriculture has a great influence on grassland, resulting in the disappearance of many plant and animal species and changing open landscape. Sustainable farming practices, which use farm animal grazing, are seen as a potential solution to continued biodiversity loss resulting from over- or undergrazing. In the article the influence of grazing animals on grassland biocenoses and their use in active biodiversity protection are reviewed based on over 100 references. It is concluded that animal grazing can be a tool to maintain or restore biodiversity of open landscape and contribute to the aesthetic and leisure importance of grassland. The successful use of grazing for environment protection and biodiversity enhancement requires careful planning and should be adapted to local conditions. A deep understanding of the relationship between herbivores, plant, and small animal communities and the abiotic environment is essential. Therefore, there is a need for comprehensive research programmes in the area of extensive grazing, combining expertise from ecology, botany, agronomy, animal production and rural economics. The research should include both field experiments and development of appropriate models, allowing for the design of agroenvironmental schemes aimed at the protection of grassland biocecenoses.
Animal Science Papers and Reports vol 28. (2010) no. 4, 315-334
Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding, Jastrzębiec, Poland
Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity
of grassland – a review
Ewa Metera1, Tomasz Sakowski1*,
Krzysztof Słoniewski1, Barbara Romanowicz2
1 Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding,
Jastrzębiec, 05-552 Wólka Kosowska, Poland
2 Compassion in World Farming, River Court, Mill Lane,
Godalming, Surrey GU7 1EZ, UK
(Received October 2, 2009; accepted September 20, 2010)
The intensication of agriculture has a great inuence on grassland, resulting in the disappearance of
many plant and animal species and changing open landscape. Sustainable farming practices, which
use farm animal grazing, are seen as a potential solution to continued biodiversity loss resulting
from over- or undergrazing. In the article the inuence of grazing animals on grassland biocenoses
and their use in active biodiversity protection are reviewed based on over 100 references. It is
concluded that animal grazing can be a tool to maintain or restore biodiversity of open landscape
and contribute to the aesthetic and leisure importance of grassland. The successful use of grazing
for environment protection and biodiversity enhancement requires careful planning and should be
adapted to local conditions. A deep understanding of the relationship between herbivores, plant,
and small animal communities and the abiotic environment is essential. Therefore, there is a need
for comprehensive research programmes in the area of extensive grazing, combining expertise from
ecology, botany, agronomy, animal production and rural economics. The research should include
both eld experiments and development of appropriate models, allowing for the design of agro-
environmental schemes aimed at the protection of grassland biocecenoses.
KEY WORDS: biodiversity / grassland / grazing / herbivores / landscape protection
*Corresponding author:
Grassland is an important agroecosystem, constituting more than 30% of
agricultural land in Central Europe [Zimkova et al. 2007] and 20-22% of the total area
used in agriculture in Poland [Sawicki 2006, European Commision 2009]. Grassland
plays an important role in European animal production, particularly in production of
milk [Smit et al. 2008]. As well as their contribution to food and feed production,
pastures and meadows form specic landscape and are a habitat for many species of
plants and animals, resulting in a high biodiversity referring to all living organisms
existing and interacting within an ecosystem [Vandermeer and Perfecto 1995, van
Wieren and Bakker 2008].
In agroecosystems, biodiversity performs a variety of ecological services beyond
the production of food and feed, including the recycling of nutrients, regulation of
microclimate and local hydrological processes, suppression of undesirable organisms
and detoxication of noxious chemicals [Altieri 1999]. There is growing evidence that
the level of internal regulation of functions in agroecosystems is largely dependent
on the level of plant and animal biodiversity present. Thus, biodiversity of grassland
is important not only as a tool to protect plant and animal communities, but also in
sustaining their agricultural productivity.
The intensication of agriculture, largely driven by economic factors, has a
major inuence on grassland. In general, extensive meadows and pastures are less
productive and give crop with a lower net energy content compared to those managed
intensively. Thus, farmers expect to achieve quicker and better results with intensive
practices, such as frequent fertilization. Agricultural activities such as tillage, drainage,
intercropping, rotation, grazing and extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers have
signicant implications for wild species of ora and fauna [McLaughlin and Mineau
1995]. In consequence, the overly-intensive use of grasslands is the main reason for
the disappearance of many plant species [Bohner 2007]. Gough and Grace [1998]
and Marty [2006] also highlight, that an increase in grassland productivity results in
a decline in number of plant species in many habitats. Consequently, a remarkable
decrease in the range and abundance of many species associated with farmland has
been reported across Europe. Sustainable farming systems such as extensive or
organic farming, with the use of farm animal grazing, are seen as a potential solution to
continued biodiversity loss. It has been shown that organic and low-input production
systems support greater genetic and biotic diversity of agricultural ecosystems [Duelli
1997, Bartoszuk et al. 2001, Hansen et al. 2001, Bohner 2007]. In regions with rich
soils, the number of species on organic elds has been found to be up to 10 times
higher compared to conventional elds [Heineken 1990].
Extensively managed pastures and meadows are of crucial importance for
grassland biodiversity across Europe. Unfortunately, biodiversity of such biocenoses
is currently threatened either by intensive use or by abandonment [Bartoszuk et al.
2001, Dolek and Geyer 2002, Poschlod and Wallis de Vries 2002]. In many areas
of Europe, low grazing pressure leads to the creation of unexploited areas that are
E. Metera et al.
progressively covered with shrubs [Bailey et al. 1998]. Soussana and Duru [2007]
state that within 20 years, permanent grassland and pastures in Western Europe have
declined by 12%. This phenomenon has also been observed in Poland, where, as a
result of the decreasing numbers of cattle and horses, fewer of them are being grazed
on grasslands [Jankowska-Huejt 2007]. This is particularly the case in areas with
unfavourable agricultural conditions. The result is a succession of undesirable plant
communities leading to a biodiversity decline.
Extensive farming which uses animal grazing, can be a tool to maintain or restore
open landscapes, and also has a benecial effect on adjacent wild ecosystems [Bartoszuk
et al. 2001, van Braeckel and Bokdam 2002a, Dumont et al. 2007, Isselstein et al. 2007,
Jankowska-Huejt 2007, Scimone et al. 2007, Wallis De Vries et al. 2007]. Conversion
of intensively managed farms to organic methods of management is also benecial to
nature conservation [Haggar and Padel 1996]. A mixed farming system with a high
proportion of grassland habitats is likely to maintain a number of important farmland
bird populations in many countries including Poland [Sanderson et al. 2009]. The
importance of extensive grassland use for biodiversity and landscape conservation is
the main reason for the substantial support of these practices in the form of subsidy
payments, through EU and national government legislation [Hole 2005].
The effect of grazing animals on grassland biocenoses
Grazing animals can affect an ecosystem through defoliation, treading and leaving
excreta [Warda and Rogalski 2004, Duncan 2005, Wasilewski 2006]. The transport of
seeds is another signicant way in which grazers can inuence plant diversity [Olff
and Ritchie 1998]. Natural fertilization and transport of nutrients in animals’ excreta is
also important for grassland and adjacent biocenoses which may be used by herbivores
for feeding and resting. It may be assumed that wild plants are adapted to herbivores
since they have evolved together. However, the intensity of defoliation, treading and
natural fertilization in farming landscapes may exceed the levels occurring in natural
systems, thus adverserly affecting grassland biocenoses.
Defoliation is the main way in which herbivores affect plant communities.
Periodic defoliation is vital for controlling succession of plants [Rook et al. 2004].
Intensive defoliation, on the other hand, inhibits the development of trees and shrub
seedlings and supports mass growth of grasses [van Braeckel and Bokdam 2002a].
Unselective defoliation on a massive scale stimulates the growth of short plants, thus
creating and maintaining open landscapes such as pastures and meadows. However,
herbivores usually defoliate selectively. Selective defoliation encourages the growth
of unpalatable tall plants and supports the creation of a mosaic landscape structure
[Warda and Rogalski 2004]. Rook et al. [2004] concluded that the main mechanism
through which grazing animals inuence pastures is their dietary selection, which in
consequence creates and maintains the structural heterogeneity of pasture swards.
Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland
Treading can have both a positive and negative effect on pasture soil. Treading
or trampling creates gaps in the sward and has a positive effect on the establishment
of annual and bi-annual species. [Van Braeckel and Bokdam 2002]. Treading of the
soil surface creates gaps thus allowing seeds to sprout, which in effect speeds up the
growth of grasses, and eventually prevents soil erosion [Warda and Rogalski 2004].
The extent of that impact depends largely on the size of grazing animals and the number
of individuals per surface area. For example, Bartoszuk et al. [2001] suggest that size
is an advantage of using cattle for pasture conservation, as heavy animals prevent the
growth of weeds by trampling and disturbing the soil with their hoofs. According to
Vavra [2005], grazing animals can protect specic plant seeds by churning the soil and
creating mulches which cover them. On the other hand, trampling may reduce stream
bank stability and increase soil erosion [Kauffman et al. 1983, Vavra 2005]. The risk
of erosion increases when a soil is wet, when animals cut the canopy very short (less
than 20 mm) or when stocking rate is too high [Russell et al. 2001].
Trampling is potentially dangerous for groundnesting birds’ nests and animal
burrows. However, the ornithological studies in the Biebrzanski National Park in
Poland have indicated that extensive grazing of cattle contributed to the improvement
of nesting conditions. The positive effect of grazing was a result of the creation of a
habitat structure optimum for birds. Moreover, the presence of grazing cattle reduced
the pressure of small predators on nests and nestlings. The positive effects far exceeded
nest losses caused by the cattle themselves [Mazurek 2002, 2003].
Animal manure plays an important role in creating and preserving biological
diversity. The excreta produced by herbivores during grazing act as a natural fertilizer
and inuence seed distribution. Manure is a rich source of nutritive substances
essential for green biomass growth. The dispersal of faeces results in species and
structural diversity of ora [Guziak and Lubaczewska 2001, Peco et al. 2006].
However, intensive grazing can also cause over-fertilization of pastures, disturbing
organic matter and the nutrient circulation balance, thus negatively inuencing the
biodiversity of a whole ecosystem. For example, a decrease in wader populations on
mown and grazed peat grassland is observed when the farmland is drained and heavily
manured [Dyrcz et al. 1985, Kleijn et al. 2001].
Factors modifying the inuence of grazing on the environment
As already mentioned, the way in which herbivores utilize plants differs between
species. This is demonstrated by the different browsing strategies and preferential
grazing of different plant species. Van Braeckel and Bokdam [2002] divide large
herbivores into three functional groups. The rst group, the grazers, includes cattle,
horses and other social herbivores capable of digesting the plant cell wall bre
efciently. The second group is browsers, which include elk and roe deer. They are
very selective, solitary herbivores, which mainly digest the cell content of plants. The
third group consists of the intermediate feeders (e.g. red deer and European bison).
E. Metera et al.
They are social herbivores that can switch between the grazing and browsing strategy
[Hofmann 1989]. We will focus on the role of grazers, as the majority of grazing farm
animals belong to this category.
Animal species differ in their preference for taking various plants, im the order
of selection of species taken and in height of the cut made [Abaye et al. 1994, Bailey
1999]. Due to the diverse feeding behaviour and feed preferences, the impact on the
area grazed differs between species. For example, Bartoszuk et al. [2001] pointed out
that cattle prefer taller grasses and other plants, whereas horses (Polish Konik) select
the shorter sward. Cattle prefer the reproductive parts of plants whereas sheep show
preference for vegetative parts. Compared to cattle, horses are more inclined to take
brous grasses. Furthermore, they can bite closer to the ground because of their teeth
structure [Dumont et al. 2007]. Cattle often utilize grassland selectively by grazing
some areas more intensively than the other, resulting in local overgrazing [Coughenour
1991]. Goats are less selective than other farm ruminants in the species of plant eaten
[Bartoszuk et al. 2001]. Sheep and goats generally need more energy in relation to
their gut capacity than cattle, and they have, therefore, to select plant parts with higher
nutritive value (owers, pods, shoots) - Rook et al. [2004]. The degree of selectivity
of animals to the plants eaten depends also on sward composition and quality [Rook
et al. 2004, Dumont et al. 2007]. When the sward is rich in diverse species of ora,
animals tend to choose plants which meet best their nutritional requirements. When
the sward diversity is smaller, animals start to graze less selectively.
Interactions between herbivores and ecosystems are especially complex in the
case of free-ranging animals, as abiotic zones and successive stages of biocenoses are
of different attractiveness for foraging vs. resting animals. For example, oodplains
with short grass swards are preferred foraging habitats by grazers, whereas woodland
on nutrient-poor fens and bogs are nonattractive. Short vegetation in minerotrophic,
base-rich fens occupies an intermediate position. Woodlands on uplands are a second-
choice foraging habitat but they may be preferred for resting. This differential use of
habitats generates nutrient transport between ecosystems [Van Braeckel and Bokdam
2002]. The ability of herbivores to move between different ecosystems is especially
important when they are used in order to protect or conserve natural landscapes.
Rogalski et al. [2001] quote several examples of the way in which species of
grazed animals affect the botanical composition of pasture swards. Due to selective
biting, valuable grass species such as perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) were
found to disappear from pastures grazed by cattle. This grass species also decreased
in abundance on pastures grazed by sheep. L. perenne and smooth meadow grass
(Poa pratensis) decreased in abundance on horse grazed pastures. The declining grass
species were replaced mainly by orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata). When goats
were grazed, meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis) gradually declined and was replaced
by D. glomerata and L. perenne, which became dominant in the sward. Sheep, and
especially horse grazing, reduced the abundance of white clover (Trifolium repens)
Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland
the abundance of which was positively affected by goat grazing. Generally, grazing
animals increased the abundance of herb species in the sward.
Grant et al. [1985] compared grazing sheep and cattle and found that the two
species differed signicantly in all major aspects of their diet. Sheep diets contained
more forbs and less grass ower stems than those of cattle. The differences between
sheep and cattle diets were explained by a difference in the height at which the
animals bit the sward, related to the distribution of plant species within the sward
canopy. Other important differences included the greater ability of sheep to select
from ne-scale mixtures; and the greater readiness of cattle to graze on tall, more
brous components.
Grazing can be useful in controlling valueless grasses, as Dumont et al. [2007]
showed in the case of nard (Nardus sp.). Cattle grazing reduced the area covered by this
grass by 30% in ve years. During the same period, grazing by sheep decreased its area
by 80%. It was also shown that the share of same grass was more greatly reduced after
six years of grazing by horses then in the same period of grazing by cattle. Moreover,
horses keep grassy areas short, at a height of less than 4 cm, because they can bite closer
to the ground, due to their teeth structure [Dumont et al. 2007]. Cattle prefer taller
grasses, at a height between 9 and 16 cm. The above comparison indicates that horses
can be used to reduce tall grass vegetation successfully. This has in fact been shown in
practice, both in France and in the Netherlands [Dumont et al. 2007].
It is not only animal species, but also breed that affects the way in which a sward
is grazed. Rook et al. [2004] suggested that the differences in question are primarily
a result of differences in body size and gave many examples of such variations. For
example, French dual-purpose steers (Meuse-Rhine-Yssel) were more selective than
Hereford steers, and Salers heifers were less selective than Limousine heifers. The
quoted authors found also that Aberdeen Angus steers with the “small” genotype were
more selective that those with “large” genotype, which conrms that size of animals
is important in determining grazing preferences.
Studying commercial and traditional livestock breeds, Dumont et al. [2007] found
some differences in their grazing strategy. North Devon steers expressed a greater
preference for tall grass-forbs than Charolais × Holstein crossbreds, but generally
traditional breeds appeared to be less selective than commercial ones. The age and
physiological status of the animal also alters its feeding preferences. Young animals
and pregnant or lactating females prefer forages with higher nutritive value and so are
more selective when grazing [Rook et al. 2004].
The effect of grazing on the environment depends on regional variation in major
habitat characteristics, such as soil fertility and availability of water. There is evidence
that differences occur between herbivore species in their preference for pasture soil
type. For example, horses (Polish Konik) prefer plants typical of dry soils [Bartoszuk
et al. 2001], whereas cattle will readily graze on plants from both dry and humid soils
[Wasilewski 2006]. Consequently, free-ranging animals move between biocenoses,
depending on time of day or season, seeking for preferred food or convenient resting
E. Metera et al.
place. Large herbivores will use the nutrient-rich oodplain (and peat zone) as summer
foraging habitats and the uplands as winter habitats. In the absence of oodplains,
their function may be substituted by fertilized upland sites or by supplements. Winter
feed supplementation or shelter may substitute a lacking upland site. In complete
successional mosaics, animals shift daily and seasonally between grassland and
woodland for foraging and resting, respectively.
Peco et al. [2006] stressed that moderate grazing increases fertility of very poor
soils and promotes species richness at the local scale as well as vegetation cover,
which contributes to protecting the soil from erosion. It also improves the soil’s ability
to retain water, which is important for seed germination and seedling establishment in
environments where the main limiting factor for these processes is water. On the other
hand, animals grazed on sensitive soils can cause serious environmental damage. For
example, the exposure and maintenance of bare soil in the UK by grazing animals,
especially sheep, initiates erosion of sensitive soil, particularly in the uplands. When
initiated, erosion processes can be very difcult to stop, even when animals are
excluded from the area by fencing [Evans 1997]. This indicates that both the type
of grazed animals and the grazing intensity have to be carefully adjusted to local
conditions in order to achieve benecial results of grazing for biodiversity. Providing
that this is done, the inuence of grazing animals together with the spatial diversity
of soil and water conditions, supports development of rich, mosaic landscapes. The
mosaic landscape offers habitats for foraging and breeding for waders, waterfowl and
marsh birds [Haggar and Padel 1996]. Diversication of swards also ensures a variety
of niches for invertebrates, which are part of the birds’ diet. Moreover, birds such
as plovers and lapwings prefer clustered plants for egg laying and raising nestlings
[Guziak and Lubaczewska 2001].
The effect of grazing on the ecosystem depends on its intensity, and particularly
on livestock density. According to Scimone et al. [2007], grazing intensity generally
had profound effects on vegetation diversity, but the effect depended on site-specic
vegetation characteristics.
Extensive or semi-intensive grazing has a positive effect on biodiversity. Grazing
at a low stocking rate seems to have the potential to facilitate the restoration of diverse
swards and to support reasonable individual performances of the grazing animals
[Isselstein et al. 2005, Tallowin et al. 2005]. Verhulst et al. [2004] found the most bird
species in extensive grassland, whereas intensively grazed elds had lower species
numbers, and lower density and diversity. Based on these ndings, the authors suggest
that conservation efforts aimed at farmland birds should be focused on maintaining
extensive farming systems. Light grazing can increase species richness and the
abundance of wild animals, especially butteries, grasshoppers and ground-dwelling
arthropods [Wallis De Vries et al. 2007]. Moderate grazing can be a useful tool to
limit expansion of shrubs, as shown by Casasus et al. [2007] in the mountain pastures
of the Pyrenees, resulting in the enhancemetnt of the environmental and recreational
value of the area.
Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland
In the case of intensive grazing practices, the opposite effect can be expected.
Overgrazing affects soil properties resulting in reduced water inltration, less soil
moisture and fertility. It changes microbiological activity and increases soil erosion
[Czeglédi and Radácsi 2005, Thurow 2005]. High grazing pressure decreases plant
diversity, changes the botanical composition of the sward and can lead to the invasion
of undesirable plant species. For example, when grazing is intensive, bunch grasses
tend to be eliminated. Intensive grazing leads to an increase of short grasses and
annuals, which do not stimulate soil maintaining because of their poor root system.
There are many examples of the negative effect of intensive grazing on ecosystems
[Evans 1997, Lennon 1999, Czeglédi and Radácsi 2005]. The Project “Transhumans
for Biodiversity Conservation” revealed that overgrazing signicantly decreases the
number of endemic plant species [GEF 1999, Debayle 2004]. Lapointea et al. [2000]
presented another example, where an excessive number of grazing cattle was a major
factor responsible for the decline of duck populations throughout islands in South
Quebec (North America). Lennon [1999] describes damages done to fragile alpine
ecosystems in Australia by cattle and sheep grazing over the last century.
Undergrazing can be equally harmful for biodiversity as overgrazing. Undergrazing
leads to less stimulation and gradual loss of grazing-dependent endemic grasses and
legumes. It was found that long-term grazing abandonment can result in the loss of
more than 60% of grassland species [Peco et al. 2006].
One way of beneting from the different feeding preferences of animal species
is to graze them together – a practice called mixed grazing. Mixed grazing could be
benecial both for quality of forage and performance of grazing animals as shown
by Abaye et al. [1994] in simultaneous grazing of sheep and cattle. Extensive,
mixed grazing has been practiced for many centuries and has had profound effects on
landscape and biodiversity [Collins 1989].
Loucougaray et al. [2004] examined the effect of mixed grazing of horses and
cattle on the diversity of coastal grasslands in western France. These areas contained
diverse plant communities, ranging from hygrophilus through seasonally ooded,
meso-hygrophilus on slopes where the soil remains saline to mesophilus on higher
altitudes. Mixed grazing enhanced the development of rosette, sub-halophyte and
halophyte species in saline areas, and limited the strongly competitive couch grass
(Elymus repens) and creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera). They concluded that mixed
grazing supports the creation of the most species-rich and structurally diversed swards.
The results indicate that mixed grazing can be used to manage plant diversity and
preserve endangered communities at the scale of grassland ecosystem.
Certain authors have stated that sheep and goats can graze together effectively,
and that goats may be used to improve pastures for sheep production [Del Pozo et al.
1998, Animut et al. 2005, Celaya et al. 2007]. The advantages of co-grazing of sheep
and goats are derived primarily from differences in their preferences for particular
plant species and parts, their ability or willingness to consume forages that are not
highly preferred and would have adverse effects on the other species, and physical
E. Metera et al.
capabilities to gain access to specic types of vegetation. Co-grazing of sheep and
goats illustrates the importance of browsers in many grazing systems and shows how
management practices can be employed to maintain or increase their prevalence and
vegetation diversity [Animut and Goetsch 2008].
Little research has been carried out into the co-grazing of cattle and pigs. However,
Stoegaard et al. [2000] and Sehested et al. [2004] have shown that the diversity of
plants on pasture is highest when grazing heifers alone, followed by mixed grazing of
heifers and sows. The lowest diversity was found when grazing sows alone.
Generally, mixed grazing can be used effectively in order to enhance plant diversity
and animal performance, but overly high density of animals or a bad selection of
species can be harmful to diversity of the habitat [Animut and Goetsch 2008].
Use of grazing animals for active biodiversity protection
Due to its inuence on the environment, animal grazing is used as a tool for
protection and restoration of biocenoses of high biological and cultural value. Grazing
is considered to be an important practice for the survival of many threatened plant
and animal species in Europe [Bignal et al. 1994, Poschlod and Wallis de Vries 2002,
Dolek and Geyer 2002]. The main role of animals grazed on threatened grasslands
is to control plant species richness. This is a critical issue in the conservation and
management of grassland biodiversity. In order to achieve the expected results,
the species of grazing animal and method of pasture management must be chosen
carefully whilst taking into account the local natural conditions and the conservation
goals of that particular area.
Numerous eld experiments on grassland plant communities have shown
that herbivores often, although not always, increase plant diversity. In most cases,
grazing was introduced as a prevention measure against the proliferation of shrubs.
Van Braeckel and Bokdam [2002b] studied Biebrzanski National Park (Poland) in
order to evaluate the effectiveness of cattle and horse grazing as a tool to prevent the
succession of undesirable plants. Their results show that grazing animals prevented
and limited the invasion of reeds, but did not restore desirable agglomerations of
sedges and mosses. This indicates that a major role of extensive grazing is to preserve,
not to restore desirable sward composition. They concluded that grazing of cattle,
horses and geese should be integrated with mowing once or twice a year in order to be
effective in maintaining and preserving the unique landscape and biological richness
of the Biebrza Valley basin.
Hoffmann [2002] described the successful use of cattle, horses and sheep in
Flanders to halt the expansion and succession of shrub species. Warda and Rogalski
[2004] have also conrmed the positive effect of grazing on open biocenoses. Cattle
and horse grazing on saline meadows in the Swina valley (Poland) contributed to
the protection of 21 plant species growing there as well as the protection of rare bird
Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland
Many authors have described the use of sheep grazing for nature conservation,
both in the uplands and in the mountains [Nowakowski et al. 1999, 2000] as well as in
the lowlands [Groberek 2005]. Sheep grazing inhibited the succession of undesirable
plants and had a positive effect on the enrichment and diversity of oristic communities
[Gordon 1990, Harnett 1995, Gutman et al. 1997, Niznikowski 2003]. Sheep were also
successfully used for grassland conservation in France [Debayle 2004]. Harris [2002]
reported that use of sheep was successful in the conservation of habitats for endemic
plants, such as the Scottish primrose (Primula scotica) on the Orkney Islands.
As already mentioned, grazing can slow down the expansion of shrubs on meadows
and pastures, but is not enough to prevent it completely or to reverse succession. In
order to maintain open landscapes, grazing must be combined with other practices.
Bartoszuk et al. [2001] note that there is no meadow management without grazing
and no pasture management without mowing, as these two practices must compliment
each other. In order to maintain and preserve biodiversity of open landscapes, a
combination of practices including grazing, mowing, and reed and wood cutting were
suggested by van Braeckel and Bokdam [2002b].
Some authors emphasize the usefulness of local, indigenous breeds for the
protection of valuable landscapes through extensive or semi-intensive grazing
[Bartoszuk et al. 2001, Wasilewski 2002, 2006]. The advantages of using these
breeds for the above mentioned purpose include their resistance to difcult climatic
and environmental conditions and ability to utilize low quality feed. Moreover, they
have a calm temperament, with good health and resistance to diseases and parasites,
including insects, and show good reproductive performance. When horses are used for
such a purpose, then light breeds, such as the Konik Polski, which are well adapted
to harsh conditions, should be preferred over heavier working horses [Bartoszuk et
al. 2001]. Groberek [2005] reported that sheep of the native Polish breed Wrzosowka
(Hether Sheep) were successfully used to prevent undesirable plant succession in
lowland areas.
Opinions about the use of mixed grazing for environmental protection are not
consistent. Some authors claim that mixed grazing can lead to restoration of plants
diversity, while others believe that it reduces the biodiversity of a sward.
Generally, many published results suggest that the introduction of large herbivores
into natural grasslands may help to maintain and enhance its botanical diversity.
However, in the examples published, grazing was not always the correct method for
vegetation management, as demonstrated by Kohyani et al. [2008] in coastal dune
habitats. Thus, the existing scientic evidence indicates that scale and environmental
site conditions are both to be considered when grazing animals are introduced.
The successful use of grazing for environmental protection and biodiversity
enhancement requires careful planning. In all cases, the choice of breed, animal
density and pasture management should be suited to local conditions and conservation
goals in order to achieve the desired results. There is no universal solution, and
grazing programmes should be tailored to local conditions. Usually, such programmes
E. Metera et al.
are developed by using examples of similar work carried out in practice, and then
accommodated through trial and error. A prerequisite for the development of viable
programmes is a deep understanding of the relationship between herbivores, plant and
animal communities and the abiotic environment. Moreover, predicting the effects
of grazing on ecosystems requires modelling [Van Oene et al. 1999]. The models
used should include the spatio-temporal distribution of herbivores and plant species,
across-zone inuences, successional stages and subsequent responses. Simulation
models should be developed to calculate the effects of grazing and other management
on vegetation succession and related ecosystem properties. The models can facilitate
the comparison of different management practices only if they are reliable. This is a
key issue for environment conservation experts. The development and testing of such
models is of crucial importance and requires much research.
Socio-economic aspects of extensive grazing
Grassland is vital for health and welfare of farm ruminants and for horses, as
well as for milk production [Smit et al. [2008]]. Plant species diversity inuences
both the performance of livestock grazing on pastures, and the quality of the raw
animal products. On the other hand, grazing animals impacts pasture biodiversity in
the whole meaning of the term (i.e. of plants, animals and insects).
The positive inuence of sward diversity on the performance of grazing animals
was conrmed by Soder et al. [2007] and Edouard et al. [2007]. The presence of herbs
and specic plant species in the sward positively inuences the fatty acid composition
of milk and meat, with a particular inuence on health promoting substances, such as
polyunsaturated fatty acids. The greatest advantage of pasture-based milk and meat
production is obtaining a product with higher content of unsaturated fatty acids and
vitamins, known to be benecial for human health [Jahreis et al. 1997, Enser et al.
1998, Bugaud et al. 2001, Martin et al. 2004, Couvreur et al. 2006, Strzałkowska et
al. 2009abc]. Pastushenko et al. [2000] have shown that pasture feeding in organic
beef and veal production improved the quantity and composition of polyunsaturated
fatty acids of meat. Wood et al. [2003] reviewed the information about fatty acid
composition of pork, beef and lamb and concluded that feeding grass elevates the
content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. Raziminowicz et al. [2006] has
shown that beef from pastured cattle is rich in n-3 fatty acids and has a better ratio
of n-6/n-3 fatty acids than beef from other origins. Adnoy et al. [2005] conrmed
that meat from lambs raised in extensive systems on unimproved mountain pastures
had signicantly better chemical content and sensory quality compared to meat from
lambs grazing on cultivated lowland pastures. Fraser et al. [2009] reported that pasture
type had a greater effect than breed on fatty acid composition, meat colour, stability
and vitamin E content. Lourenco et al. [2005] showed that feeding of forages from
semi-natural meadows resulted in better composition of milk fatty acids, compared to
forage from intensively managed grasslands.
Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland
It can be concluded that the type of sward grazed has a greater inuence on animal
performance and meat and milk quality than breed. Species-rich, diverse grasslands
allow for the production of high quality, health promoting animal products.
The examples cited above indicate that in most cases, extensive grazing is a useful
tool to maintain valuable grassland biocenoses and to preserve open landscapes. In
order to encourage farmers to continue these practices, extensive grazing must also
be technically and economically sustainable. In this context, the ndings of Isselstein
et al. [2007] who examined the effects of grazing intensity on animal production
and diverse conservation aspects are particularly promising. They concluded that
biodiversity-targeted extensive grazing systems have the potential to be integrated
into modern livestock production systems, as individual livestock performance was
comparable to that in a system using moderate grazing intensity.
Dillon et al. [2005] studied the feasibility of pasture-based milk production
systems in temperate regions. They indicated that such systems were characterized
by lower unit production costs, through lower feed and labour expenses, as well as
reduced capital investment. The systems utilizing grazed pasture are useful in regions
where the potential production of pasture is high, variation in seasonal pasture supply
and quality is low, and where large areas of land are available at relatively low cost.
Pasture-based systems allow for greater sustainability, increase product quality, improve
animal welfare and increase labour efciency. The production of green forage from
permanent grassland consumes less energy than crop cultivation, with relatively high
energy and protein yields. As a result, low-input pasture provides cheap green forage
[Soder et al. 2007]. Kasperczyk [2008] emphasizes, that economical rationalization
of pro-ecological use of meadows and pastures is possible only under sustained
management and should be supported by further, reliable scientic investigations.
It seems that extensive grazing can be a competitive agricultural practice in areas
less suitable for intensive agriculture. Frelich et al. [2008] surveyed the impact of
grazing on milk performance and health of dairy cows in sub-mountain areas and
found that health status of animals kept seasonally on pasture was signicantly better
as compared to that of cows fed with total mixed ration. They concluded that seasonal
pasture is benecial for milk production and ensures better welfare of grazed cattle.
Bugaud et al. [2001] and Collomb et al. [2002] also found dairy cattle pasturing in
unfavourable areas to be protable for milk production. They concluded that careful
planning and implementation of pasture systems allows for the reconciliation of
economic effectiveness with environmental goals, as was also shown by Lapointea
et al. [2000]. The latter authors presented an example from islands in south Quebec
(North America), where the introduction of rotational grazing allowed for the
simultaneous growth of duck populations and an increase of beef production, while
soil erosion was reduced.
Despite the possible economical advantages of extensive grazing systems, some
nancial support appears to be needed in order to support this kind of agricultural land
use. According to Mills et al. [2007], economic analysis has indicated that nancial
E. Metera et al.
support for farmers is essential to reconcile sustainable grazing systems with high
biodiversity. Isselstein et al. [2005] also raise the issue of compensation payments for
farmers to support grass production on high-biodiversity swards. Moreover, Nilsson
[2009] concludes that biodiversity restoration and conservation costs differ between
geographical areas. Therefore, nancial support must be suited to local conditions.
In any case, the benecial economic effects of low-input grazing systems would be a
strong argument in persuading farmers to maintain or restore this kind of activity.
The socio-economic aspect of animal use for biodiversity protection has been
investigated by several authors [Gandini and Villa 2003, Rook et al. 2004]. Duncan
[2005] also reviewed some papers dealing with the co-inuence of farm animals
and biodiversity. They concluded that agri-environmental schemes including the
use of grazing animals could be benecial for farmers, nature conservation and
communities. By re-establishing common property regimes, and providing carefully
designed economic and institutional incentives for a revival of transhumance, over-
grazing and under-grazing would be avoided on the local scale, and habitats would be
preserved for endemic ora and fauna. Warda and Rogalski [2004] suggest another
important benet of low-input, pasture-based animal production systems. They stress
the aesthetic and leisure importance of pastures, as well as of the animals grazing
on them. They also mention the social role of pasture management in maintaining
cultural heritage and restituting local animal breeds.
Many authors encourage the use of local breeds of cattle, horses, sheep and even
geese for low-input pasture management [Bartoszuk et al. 2001, Warda and Rogalski
2004, Groberek 2005]. The use of these breeds for landscape protection would
create a niche for threatened breeds and would support animal biodiversity. Another
aspect of the use of native breeds, besides the preservation or restoration of animal
genetic resources, is the production of region-specic products, labelled as Protected
Designation of Origin PDO. The higher price of these goods would encourage
farmers to maintain a production system which is benecial for biodiversity and
environmental protection. In this context, Warda and Rogalski [2004] mention that
farmers specialized in animal production based on grassland are also seen as active
ecologists, protecting the environment and the natural landscape.
Animal grazing is essential for the growth of green biomass and composition
of plant communities on grasslands. Grazing creates favourable conditions for the
formation of habitat structure preferred by many endangered birds, small mammals
and invertebrates. As a result, grazing animals have a positive impact on biodiversity
of grasslands. As well as the benecial impact on biodiversity, extensive grazing
contributes to the aesthetic and leisure importance of pastures.
Inappropriate use of pasture – both overgrazing and undergrazing – poses a threat
for its biodiversity. Thus, both abandonment and overly intensive management of
Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland
pastured grassland are harmful for biodiversity and should be avoided. Light grazing
can be a tool to maintain or enhance biodiversity of grazed areas. The practice can also
contribute to the production of healthy food of high quality.
Animal grazing can be used as a tool to limit the expansion of weeds and shrubs
in open landscapes, but in most cases cannot stop or reverse natural succession.
Thus, for purposes of biodiversity conservation, grazing should be combined with
other practices, such as mowing, cutting or burning. The question of which method
or combination of methods is most suitable and most feasible in a particular area,
depends on local biological and socio-economic factors.
The conservation and protection of pastures and meadows requires the careful
selection of grazing management and appropriate number of grazing animals. Grazing
species differ in their preference of habitat and plant species, which can enable the
effective use of mixed grazing systems with different animal species.
The continuation of extensive pasture practices by farmers requires nancial aid
and greater social and political support, especially where large areas are concerned.
Research ndings suggest that existing agro-environment schemes based only on
blanket stocking rates are too crude to increase plant diversity and that site conditions
must also be taken into consideration. Moreover, the method of nancial support
must be suited to local conditions. Local authorities and farmers should co-operate to
obtain funds for appropriate agro-environment schemes. Government policies in this
area need to be continuously reviewed with respect to biological, environmental and
economic impacts. The design, implementation, monitoring and effects of agricultural
policies must be constantly evaluated and improved.
Strategic research is required into methods of achieving compliance with
environmental protection and sustainable agriculture legislation in grassland areas.
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botany, agronomy, animal production and economics. The elds of interest include not
only interactions between grazing animals and biotic and abiotic elements of grazed
area, but also interrelationships with adjacent wild and agricultural biocenoses. This
touches on the subject of close cooperation between agricultural and conservation
experts. The research should include both eld experiments and development of
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E. Metera et al.
... Grazing animals perform important functions in natural ecosystems through defoliation, treading, and transport of seeds and nutrients by excreta (Metera et al., 2010), therefore maintaining grasslands by preventing the proliferation of weeds and shrubs. In the Brazilian Pampa, the current climatic conditions have favored the expansion of forests into grassland areas (Roesch et al., 2009) and, given this, some authors argue that cattle raising can help to preserve the remaining grasslands in the region (e.g., Overbeck et al., 2007). ...
... In the Brazilian Pampa, the current climatic conditions have favored the expansion of forests into grassland areas (Roesch et al., 2009) and, given this, some authors argue that cattle raising can help to preserve the remaining grasslands in the region (e.g., Overbeck et al., 2007). However, it is important to be mindful of the potential negative impacts of overgrazing since it can lead to a decrease in ecosystem diversity (Metera et al., 2010). It is also worth noting that grazing animals tend to have different food preferences, as discussed previously, and that a single species cannot replace the entire Pleistocene herbivore community. ...
... The isotopic composition of bones and teeth (δ 13 C and δ 18 O) of large herbivores from the Pleistocene of Brazilian Pampa indicates that they inhabited grassland environments characterized by the dominance of cool-season grasses and a seasonal climate. These herbivores played an important role in the maintenance of these ecosystems, but grazing alone cannot prevent changes in plant composition and ecological succession (Metera et al., 2010). The climate in the region transitioned from dry and cold in the Late Pleistocene to warm and dry in the early Holocene, which was followed by a decrease in Poaceae, particularly C 3 plants of the subfamily Pooideae, and an increase in Cyperaceae (Behling et al., 2005;Mourelle et al., 2020). ...
The southern Brazilian Pleistocene fauna exhibited a rich diversity of large mammalian herbivores, which are now extinct or locally extinct. In this study, we employed stable isotope analysis to investigate the past ecology of these animals. Specifically, we examined the carbonate fraction of bones and teeth and utilized compiled carbon and oxygen isotopic ratios from previous research publications. The δ13C values indicated that most specimens inhabited grassland environments, which aligns with environmental reconstructions based on pollen records of the "Campos" region. The dominant food resource for these herbivores consisted of C3 photosynthesizers, mainly cool-season grasses. This preference can be attributed to the higher abundance and nutritional quality of cool-season grasses compared with warm-season grasses employing C4 photosynthesis. The variability in δ18O values within and between taxa may suggest a seasonal climate. Based on these findings, we conclude that the environmental changes during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition were detrimental to the survival of these large herbivores.
... Az extenzív kezelésű legelőgyepeknek kiemelt szerepe van a gyepi biodiverzitás fenntartásában (Kenéz et al., 2007;Metera at al., 2010;Penksza et al., 2010;Török et al., 2014). Számos, korábban extenzíven kezelt legelő Európában intenzív kezelésűvé vált, vagy felhagyták a legeltetést (Kelemen et al., 2013a, b). ...
... Azonban a széleskörű alkalmazás ellenére is hiányosak az ismereteink, főként a legeltetésnek a funkcionális növényi tulajdonságokra gyakorolt hatásairól. A két állatfaj közötti különbségek feltárásával is csak kevés tanulmány foglalkozik, úgy, mint Rook et al. (2004), Metera et al. (2010) és Jerrentrup et al. (2015). ...
... Ezért is fontos szerepük lenne az összehasonító vizsgálatoknak, különösen az olyan területek esetében, ahol több lehetőség kínálkozik a legelő állat típusa és az intenzitás tekintetében. Habár a szarvasmarha és a juh a legfőbb domesztikált növényevőink Európa szerte (Metera et al., 2010;Ausden et al., 2005), mégsem állnak rendelkezésünkre részletes, például intenzitási grádiens mentén zajló összehasonlító vizsgálatok. Ezt a hiátust kitöltendő, jelen munkában összevetettük a szarvasmarha és a juh rövid füvű gyepekre gyakorolt hatását különböző legeltetési intenzitások mellett. . ...
Napjainkra a nagyobb összefüggő gyepek megőrzése és helyreállítása a hazai és nemzetközi természetvédelem kiemelten fontos feladata. Számos gyeptípus fenntartásának legmegfelelőbb módja a legeltetés, megfelelő állatfajjal, állománysűrűséggel és intenzitással. Mivel fontos e tényezők hatásának pontosabb ismerete, ezért jelen vizsgálatban célunk a szarvasmarha és juh rövid füvű szikes gyepek fajösszetételére, diverzitására és funckcionális diverzitására gyakorolt hatásainak vizsgálata volt. A legelési intenzitás a területeken alacsony és közepes (0,5-1,5 állategység/ha), illetve magas (2,5-3 állategység/ha) volt. Több kvantitatív levél- (LDMC, SLA, LA, LDW) és funkcionális növényi tulajdonság (életforma, virágzás, rozetta képzés, növényi magasság, klonális terjedés, magtömeg) alakulását vizsgáltuk. Eredményeink szerint a fajgazdagság alacsonyabb volt a juh által legelt területeken, a legeltetési intenzitással összefüggésben pedig azt tapasztaltuk, hogy a növekvő intenzitás csökkentette a fajgazdagságot. A Shannon-diverzitás és az egyenletesség csak a legelő állatfajjal mutatott összefüggést, viszont az intenzitással nem. A növényi tulajdonságok, traitek tekintetében a Rao index szignifikánsan magasabb volt a szarvasmarha legelt területen és nem függött a legelési intenzitástól. A több tulajdonságra számolt funkcionális divergencia függött az intenzitástól, és a két állatfaj is különbségeket mutatott. Az egyedi tulajdonságok tekintetében a súlyozott átlag függött a legelő állatfajtól, de a legelési intenzitás csak néhány esetben mutatott jelentős hatást. Az eredmények alapján a vizsgált területek közül a juhokkal legeltetett gyepekben kisebb a taxonómiai és funkcionális fajdiverzitás. Eredményeink alapján a jelen kutatásban vizsgált, rövid füvű gyepek esetében a legelő állatfaj hatása felülmúlja az intenzitás hatásait. Eredményeink alapján elmondható, hogy jelen vizsgálat esetében a szarvasmarha legeltetés faj- és trait-gazdagabb, illetve kétszikűekben gazdagabb növényzet kialakítására képes, bár a juh legelés alkalmasabb lenne a gyomfajok elnyomására.
... Sajnos sok olyan program született már, amely csak anekdotikus, elméleti eredményeket adott. A kutatásoknak tartalmaznia kell gyakorlati tapasztalatokat és megfelelő modelleket, miközben az agrár-környezetvédelmi rendszereknek is meg kell felelnie (Metera et al., 2010). ...
... A természetvédelmi célú hagyományos, alacsony intenzitású legeltetési rendszerek széles körben elterjedtek egész Európában. Az extenzív gyepkezeléses legeltetés szerepe egyre jelentősebb az agrár-környezetvédelmi programokban, és jelentős támogatást élvez (Metera et al., 2010;Valkó és Deák, 2013;Török et al., 2014). ...
... A szarvasmarha legeltetés alacsony szelektivitása miatt általában alkalmasabb a füves területek biodiverzitásának megőrzésére, mint a ló-vagy birkalegeltetés (Pykäla, 2000(Pykäla, , 2004. Hatása azonban függ a legeltetett állatok fajtájától és a legeltetés intenzitásától is Török et al., 2016;Metera et al., 2010). Béri et al. (2004) megállapították, hogy a szarvasmarha kanyarintva legel, és ennek köszönhetően nem legelhet túl mélyen, és a legkevésbé válogat. ...
A hagyományos legeltetés világszerte fontos szerepet játszik a gyepek megőrzését célzó természetvédelmi kezelési programokban. Az elmúlt évtizedekben több kísérlet is indult a korábbi hagyományos gazdálkodás visszaállítására, azonban csak néhány olyan esettanulmány áll rendelkezésre, amely az extenzív és intenzív fajtáknak a növényzet összetételére gyakorolt hatását vizsgálja. Számos vizsgálatban arra a következtetésre jutottak, hogy a magyar szürke szarvasmarha az intenzív fajtáknál kevésbé válogató legelése valószínűleg több „léket” alakít ki a gyepben, ahová az egyéb, döntően kétszikű fajok megtelepedhetnek. Ezzel szemben az intenzív tartástechnológiát igénylő állatok homogénebben legelnek, a fenti fajbetelepülés korlátozott, ez mutatkozik meg a kisebb fajszámban és a fajkombinációk számának alacsonyabb értékében. A fentiek tükrében munkánk elsődleges célja olyan hazai és nemzetközi forrásmunkák bemutatása, amelyek során értékelhetjük, hogy a különböző intenzitású szarvasmarhafajták legelése, taposása milyen változásokat okoz a legelő növényzetében, a talaj tulajdonságaiban, valamint az állatok viselkedési tulajdonságainak tekintetében.
... Grazing c be a tool to maintain or restore biodiversity in the open landscape and contributes to t aesthetic and recreational importance of grasslands. Their successful use for environme tal protection and biodiversity enhancement requires careful planning and must adapted to local conditions [16]. Pyrenean pastoralists possess extensive knowledge of t relationships between terrain, climate, vegetation, animal nutrition, and behaviour. ...
... Grazing can be a tool to maintain or restore biodiversity in the open landscape and contributes to the aesthetic and recreational importance of grasslands. Their successful use for environmental protection and biodiversity enhancement requires careful planning and must be adapted to local conditions [16]. Pyrenean pastoralists possess extensive knowledge of the relationships between terrain, climate, vegetation, animal nutrition, and behaviour. ...
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The studied farms are small family businesses, and so, in more than half of the cases, their continuity is not guaranteed. Livestock management is typical of a mountain system, in which the animals graze throughout the year in cultivated fields, sown meadows, forests near the farms, and mountain pastures during the three summer months. The herds always have the constant surveillance of a shepherd. Farmers consider the current infrastructure present in mountain grasslands insufficient to facilitate the management and care of their herd. Their activity conflicts with various species of wildlife, such as the wild boar, Sus scrofa, roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, or griffon vulture, Gyps fulvus, and large carnivores such as the brown bear, Ursus arctos, or the grey wolf Canis lupus, despite all of them taking preventive measures to defend their herds from predators. The most widely used prevention measures are the presence of mastiff dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, next to the herds and the use of electric fencing to lock up livestock at night. Farmers reject the presence of bears and wolves in their area, considering it a real threat to the continuity of their economic activity, which presents a high degree of vulnerability.
... The reason can be that management practices in protected areas are insufficient or inappropriate. Unlike mowing, extensive grazing helps maintain the diversity of semi-dry grasslands not only by biomass reduction but also by selective defoliation, trampling, creating gaps suitable for seed germination and transport of seeds (Rook et al. 2004;Metera et al. 2010). Widespread shift from traditional grazing to mowing, the environmental homogenisation resulting from cutting the whole area at the same time by machine mowers and less frequent interventions (as suggested by lower indicator values for disturbance frequency) likely cause losses of some species. ...
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Semi-dry grasslands are among the most species-rich plant communities in the world, harbouring many specialised and threatened species. Most of these grasslands were traditionally maintained by grazing and hay-making. After traditional management ended, protected areas were established and conservation management was introduced to protect the most valuable grassland sites. However, recent changes in land use, eutrophication and climate warming are negatively impacting the biodiversity of these grasslands. In 2022, we resurveyed historical vegetation plots in the Central Moravian Carpathians (Czech Republic), first sampled in the 1980s, to test whether the plant species composition and richness of semi-dry grasslands are changing over time and, if so, whether the decline in habitat quality and plant diversity is absent or less severe in protected areas. We found significant changes in species composition. Species richness and the proportion of habitat specialists and Red-List species decreased, whereas competitively stronger species with higher moisture and nutrient requirements increased. These trends were more pronounced outside the protected areas but also occurred within protected areas. The main factor behind these changes appears to be the cessation of traditional management and natural succession supported by eutrophication.
... Different studies have different outcomes on the response of wildlife to prescribed grazing, with some studies recording increased wildlife abundance (Odadi et al., 2017;Metera et al., 2010;Teague et al., 2011) and others recording reduced wildlife abundance (Filazzola et al., 2020;Kimuyu et al., 2017). This study did not support either of these conclusions, as no significant difference in wildlife abundance was observed. ...
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Rangelands contribute at least 30% of terrestrial net primary productivity, making them an important part of natural ecosystems despite low and unpredictable rainfall regimes. Rangelands are sensitive to anthropogenic activities, making management interventions key to maintaining forage quality and quantity for wildlife. This study explored the effects of mowing of grasslands and carrying away (MO), prescribed grazing (PG), and unprescribed grazing (UG) on above-ground biomass, basal gaps, and wildlife abundance at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Meru, Kenya. Data collection was done 18 months after treatment for PG and MO, while UG was continuous. Treated blocks were selected in a systematic and random way, while adjacent untreated plots acted as controls. Blocks were divided into 100 m × 100 m grid cells using ArcMap 10.8.1, where sampling plots were drawn. T-statistics and analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests were used to test statistical significance. We found a significant reduction in the aboveground biomass between MO and its control (t = 4.886, p = 0.003) and between UG and its control (t =5.487, p = 0.007). No significant change was observed between PG and its control (t = 1.192, p = 0.287). MO increased wildlife abundance (t = -4.670, p = 0.003), while PG (t = 0.589, p = 0.583) and UG (t = -0.262, p = 0.803) showed no difference compared to their controls. The mean length of basal gaps between MO and its control decreased (t = 7.069, p = 0.001), while those between UG and its control increased (t = -4.053, p = 0.001), with no effect observed between PG and its control (t = 1.882, p = 0.061). This study recommends the use of mowing of grasslands and carrying away on rangelands as it positively influence the metrics under investigation.
... A szarvasmarha legeltetés alacsony szelektivitása miatt általában alkalmasabb a füves területek biodiverzitásának megőrzésére, mint a ló-vagy birkalegeltetés (Pykäla, 2000(Pykäla, , 2004. Hatása azonban függ a legeltetett állatok fajtájától és a legeltetés intenzitásától is Török et al., 2016;Béri et al., 2004;Metera et al., 2010). A különböző hús-és tejhozamú szarvasmarha fajták a dús levélzetű, aljfüvekben gazdagabb, mérsékelten magas állományú legelőt kedvelik (Mihók, 2005), ezentúl lápi, nedves élőhelyeken történő tartásra is alkalmasak (Szabó, 1981). ...
A szikes puszták megfelelő állapotának és biológiai sokféleségének fenntartásában, a gyepterületek természeti értékeinek megóvásában a legelő állatoknak igen jelentős szerepe van. A legelés általános hatásain túl a természetvédelemnek különösen fontos, hogy milyen sajátosságai vannak az egyes állatfajok, sőt fajták legelésének, mivel ezek jelentős különbségeket mutathatnak mind a növényzetre, mind a talajra kifejtett hatásukban. Vizsgálatunkban két hortobágyi mintaterület (Pap-ere és Zám-puszta) szarvasmarha legelőit hasonlítottuk össze természetvédelmi szempontok alapján. A két mintaterület főbb környezeti paramétereiben hasonló (növényzet, talaj, mikrodomborzat, stb.), azonban hasznosításuk eltér egymástól: Zámon intenzív, vegyes genotípusú szarvasmarhafajtákkal, míg Pap-erén az őshonos extenzív magyar szürkével legeltetnek. A vegetáció felvételeket 2016 májusában készítettük el. A két területen összesen 40 db 2×2 méteres kvadrátban végeztük el a fajok borításbecslését nedves szikes mocsarakban és szárazabb szikes rétekben. Kérdésünk az volt, hogy a két különböző szarvasmarhafajta legeltetése, illetve a legeltetés felhagyása hogyan hat a vizsgált vegetáció típusok természetességére. A természetvédelmi értékkategóriák (TVK) megoszlását Simon (2000) szerint, a szociális magatartástípusok (SZMT) értékelést pedig Borhidi (1995) alapján végeztük. A vizsgálatok során megállapítható, hogy a szarvasmarha legeltetés hatása gyeptípusonként eltérő volt. A nedves szikes mocsarakban nagyobb mértékű változásokat figyeltünk meg az egyes növénycsoportok borításában a legelés-intenzitás változásának hatására, mint a szárazabb szikes réteken. Minden vizsgált élőhelyen az edafikus körülményekre jellemző pázsitfű- és sásfajok voltak a dominánsak. A legeltetés hatására a legtöbb területen nőtt ezen fajok borítása, ami hozzájárul a gyep záródásához és a gyom- és ruderális kompetítor fajok visszaszorításához, amelyek minden területen csak kis borítással fordultak elő. Eredményeink alapján mind az extenzív, mind az intenzív húsmarha legeltetés alkalmas a vizsgált élőhelyek természetvédelmi kezelésére.
... Sandy grasslands, both on acidic and on calcareous substrata, are widely distributed throughout Europe. These grasslands, as a rule, are exploited as pastures, so their conservation status is highly dependent on management through livestock grazing [35][36][37][38]. ...
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Cryptogams, often neglected in vegetation dynamics studies, compose a large part of biomass and contribute to the biodiversity of sandy grasslands. Since the work of Verseghy (1970s), their productivity has not been analyzed in Hungary. We studied the lichen and bryophyte dynamics (hereinafter called cryptogams) at two Eastern Hungarian dry sandy grassland sites. The sites of Corynephorus canescens and of Festuca vaginata dominance, respectively, belonging to the community Festuco vaginatae–Corynephoretum have been monitored. We aimed at (1) quantifying the diversity and biomass of the cryptogamic communities; (2) exploring the cryptogamic response to management changes; and (3) studying the effect of experimental management (fencing) on the cryptogamic assemblages. The sites have been compared in 2013 and 2018, respectively. Forty microplots per site per management have been analyzed in both years. Samples of lichens and bryophytes were hand-sorted, dried and then measured. Fencing has led to increased biomass of cryptogams within a few years. Lichens in general benefited comparatively more from exclosure than bryophytes. The increase in lichen biomass (especially that of Cladonia rangiformis) is clearly due to the over 10-year absence of grazing. The only lichen favored by moderate grazing is the legally protected C. magyarica. Short spells of low-intensity grazing can promote the species richness of cryptogams in the community.
... There are numerous studies Jacquemyn et al., 2003;Joyce, 2014;Valkó et al., 2018) describing how cessation of traditional land management practices have reduced species richness of grassland communities. Many authors have also shown how grazing (with different animals) and mowing can have different effect on species richness in general (Metera et al., 2010) or to specific communities and species (Hutchings, 2010;Kose et al., 2019). Grassland plant species vary by their environmental preferences and therefore useful tools like Ellenberg indicator values are established to interpret patterns of commonness and rarity on local flora (Thompson et al., 1993). ...
Biodiversity is globally recognised as a cornerstone of healthy ecosystems and extensive management is assumed to increase biodiversity in all grassland habitats. Often, the maintenance of these semi-natural grasslands via mowing or grazing is financially subsidized and different ecosystem benefits are associated with the plant biodiversity value. These assumptions are usually made after comparing different ecosystems or management options. However, less information is available about the relations between plant biodiversity and ecosystem services in practice. Hence, we studied the impact of biodiversity on the fodder quantity and quality in two different semi-natural grassland habitats. We also checked if the species more commonly found in sites with higher biodiversity are more endangered in comparison to the rest of the species and if they have special site requirements in terms of Ellenberg indicator values. The soil of Estonian calcareous grasslands had higher pH as well as organic matter and Nitrogen content than the soil of Estonian mesic grasslands (habitat 6270). However, the average annual biomass production in the first ones was significantly smaller most probably due to water shortage. No clear relation between site productivity and plant species number was detected in either habitat. The average species number in both studied habitats was almost similar, but the median species amount in mesic grasslands was more than 13% higher than that in calcareous grasslands. Crude protein along with starch & sugar content in the calcareous grassland biomass tended to be lower than in mesic grasslands. In the last habitat, the content of these two components favoured both for fodder and biogas purposes tended to be lower in sites with more species. Positive correlations were found between species number and biomass detergent fibre contents, which is why it must be inferred that plant biodiversity does not improve grassland biomass quality. We detected several species of the Near Threatened category from the IUCN red list, but none of these appeared in our list of species that grew with higher probability in grasslands with higher plant biodiversity. According to principal component analyses, these listed species are less common, less nutrient demanding and more salt tolerant than the rest of the plant species found in calcareous grasslands and more common than the rest in mesic grasslands species. We conclude that high site biodiversity does not guarantee any larger income for the typical bioeconomy products, so other potential economic services should be included to the farm's budget.
... Ruminants like buffalo, cattle, goats, and sheep efficiently transform the forages from grasslands into high-quality animal products. This is significant because grassland pastures, which house over a billion people and span more than 25% of the Earth's land surface, predominantly consist of marginal or non-arable land (Leroy and Frongillo, 2007;Duffin and Bunting, 2008;Metera et al., 2010). ...
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Animals are utilized for a variety of things, including food production, companionship, and scientific research. Different products such as wool, hides, skin, and hoofs used to make different products for the benefit of human. One of the many different types of health effects caused by natural disasters that happen all over the world are floods. Floods can worsen the spread of various contagious diseases in animals in addition to the immediate risks like drowning. No reports of infectious diseases spread by floods around the world have been made as of yet. This review describes a potential illness outbreak that could happen during or after flooding.
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From a review of the literature, we conclude that the main mechanism by which grazing livestock affect biodiversity in pastures is the creation and maintenance of sward structural heterogeneity, particularly as a result of dietary choice. We identify lack of understanding of the currencies used by animals in their foraging decisions and the spatial scale of these decisions as major constraints to better management. We conclude that there are important differences between domestic grazing animal species in their impact on grazed communities and that these can be related to differences in dental and digestive anatomy, but also, and probably more importantly, to differences in body size. Differences between breeds within species appear to be relatively minor and again largely related to body size. We conclude that there is an urgent need to understand the genetic basis of these differences and also to separate true breed effects from effects of rearing environment. We also review the economic implications of using different animal types and conclude that there is a need for more research integrating these aspects with biodiversity outcomes.
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Despite the fact that cholesterol is a comparatively stable component of cows' milk its concentration is, within a certain range, subject to significant variation related to the season (probably the feeding system), lactation stage and somatic cell count in milk. The highest differences (about 25%) in the amount of cholesterol per g milk fat were observed between the first and last lactation stage. Despite the decreasing milk yield with the progress of lactation, the amount of cholesterol secreted with milk increased significantly. In the milk of cows for which the somatic cell count was below 100 thousand/ml the cholesterol content was by about 10% lower than that in milk characterized by a higher somatic cell count. The positive correlation coefficients obtained between the amount of cholesterol expressed as mg/100 ml milk and the per cent of fat and protein indicate that selection conducted for increasing the concentration of nutritive components in milk will result in an increased cholesterol content. However, the quantity of cholesterol per 1 g milk fat will decrease. There was observed no correlation between the content of cholesterol in milk and the polymorphic forms of LGB.
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Artificially increasing primary productivity decreases plant species richness in many habitats; herbivory may affect this outcome, but it has rarely been directly addressed in fertilization studies. This experiment was conducted in two Louisiana coastal marshes to examine the effects of nutrient enrichment and sediment addition on herbaceous plant communities with and without vertebrate herbivory. After three growing seasons, fertilization increased community biomass in all plots, but decreased species density (the number of species per unit area) only in plots protected from herbivory. Herbivory alone did not alter species density at either site. At the brackish marsh, herbivory caused a shift in dominance in the fertilized plots from a species that is considered the competitive dominant, but is selectively eaten, to another less palatable species. At the fresh marsh, increased dead biomass in the absence of herbivory and in the fertilized plots probably contributed to the decrease in species density, perhaps by limiting germination of annuals. Our results support those of other fertilization studies in which plant species density decreases with increased biomass, but only in those plots protected from herbivory.
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The aim of the study was to determine the effect of the type of silage (wilted grass vs. whole maize plants) offered to high-yielding dairy cows on cholesterol content of their milk. Silage type did not affect the cholesterol level as expressed either in mg/100 ml milk or as mg/g milk fat. However, the significant relationships were identified between the cholesterol content of milk and stage of lactation, milk somatic cell count, daily milk yield, fat content of milk and the amount of fat yielded daily.
Soil degradation caused by overgrazing is a worldwide problem. The degradation of an overutilized area occurs mainly where animals prefer to spend extra time because of the attractants that are around gateways, water sources, along fences or farm buildings. High grazing pressure decreases plant density which results in changes of the botanical composition of a pasture. The effect that grazing has on a plant depends on the timing, frequency and intensity of grazing and its opportunity to regrow. Overgrazing adversely effects soil properties, which results in reduced infiltration, accelerated runoff and soil erosion. Evidence has been corroborated with high bulk density values, high dry mechanical resistance and low structural stability. The degradation of the landscape may be a short-term phenomenon and recovery is possible after grazing pressures have been greatly reduced. Management practices have been used successfully to improve grazing distribution. These practices include water development, placement of salt and supplements, fertilizer application, fencing, burning, and the planting of special forages which can be used to enhance grazing by livestock in underutilized areas.The authors carried out their grazing experiment on the Hortobágy. The effects of overutilization by livestock on soil properties and vegetation on certain areas of grassland are presented in this paper.
When Hungary, together with nine other central and eastern European countries, enters the European Union in 2004 two major threats will arise to the birds inhabiting agricultural landscapes. Marginal agricultural land may be abandoned, while the remaining area may suffer from intensification. To assess the effects of these threats breeding birds were monitored in abandoned, extensively and intensively used vineyards and grasslands in Hungary using point counts to determine species richness and density. Species numbers and bird density were highest in extensively used vineyards, while bird diversity was highest in abandoned vineyards. Abandoned vineyards were rich in species and individuals, mainly woodland species, whereas intensively used vineyards had both fewer species and individuals than the other two vineyard types. In grassland, four management types were distinguished, abandoned, extensively, intensively grazed and both intensively grazed and fertilised grassland. Extensive grassland harboured most species, bird density and diversity being highest at the abandoned site which was covered by bushes and contained many non-grassland species. Intensively grazed fields had lower species numbers, lower density and diversity than extensively grazed grassland but were still much more species rich and diverse than the fertilised fields. Our results suggest that extensively used farmland holds the highest diversity and abundance of farmland birds. Conservation efforts aimed at farmland birds should therefore focus on maintaining extensive farming systems.