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Perennial grassland dynamics on fertile plains: Is coexistence mediated by disturbance?

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Lewis, T., Clarke, P.J., Reid, N. and Whalley, R.D.B. (2008) Perennial grassland dynamics on fertile plains: Is coexistence mediated by disturbance? Austral Ecology, 33 (2). pp. 128-139.

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-9993.2007.01801.x

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The response of grasslands to disturbance varies with the nature of the disturbance and the productivity of the landscape. In highly productive grasslands, competitive exclusion often results in decreased species richness and grazing may allow more species to coexist. Once widespread, grasslands dominated by Dichanthium sericeum (Queensland bluegrass) and Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass) occur on fertile plains but have been reduced in extent by cultivation. We tested the effects of exclusion of livestock grazing on these grasslands by comparing the floristic composition of sites in a nature reserve with an adjacent stock reserve. In addition, sites that had been cultivated within the nature reserve were compared with those where grazing but no cultivation had occurred. To partition the effects of temporal variation from spatial variation we sampled sites in three different years (1998, 2002 and 2004). Some 194 taxa were recorded at the nature reserve and surrounding stock routes. Sampling time, the occurrence of past cultivation and livestock grazing all influenced species composition. Species richness varied greatly between sampling periods relating to highly variable rainfall and water availability on heavy clay soils. Native species richness was significantly lower at previously cultivated sites (13-22 years after cultivation), but was not significantly influenced by grazing exclusion. After 8 years it appears that reintroducing disturbance in the form of livestock grazing is not necessary to maintain plant species richness in the reserve. The highly variable climate (e.g. droughts) probably plays an important role in the coexistence of species by negating competitive exclusion and allowing interstitial species to persist.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:© Ecological Society of Australia.
Keywords:Cultivation; grazing; Mitchell grass; old field; species richness; clay soil; climate variation; coexistence; dominance; ecosystem response; environmental disturbance; floristics; grassland; grazing pressure; livestock farming; native species; nature reserve; perennial plant; reintroduction; spatiotemporal analysis; taxonomy; water availability; Astrebla; Dichanthium sericeum; Poa.
Subjects:Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Live Archive:02 Feb 2009 04:52
Last Modified:15 Nov 2022 04:07

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