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Managing for rainfall variability: impacts of grazing strategies on perennial grass dynamics in a dry tropical savanna

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Orr, D.M. and O'Reagain, P. J. (2011) Managing for rainfall variability: impacts of grazing strategies on perennial grass dynamics in a dry tropical savanna. Rangeland Journal, 33 (2). p. 209. ISSN 1036-9872; 1834-7541


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/rj11032


Rainfall variability remains a major challenge to sustainable grazing management in northern Australia with perennial grasses the key to the stability of the resources that maintain a sustainable grazing industry. This paper describes the dynamics of five perennial grasses - Bothriochloa ewartiana (Domin) C.E. Hubb., Chrysopogon fallax S.T. Blake, Aristida spp., Panicum effusum R. Br. and Heteropogon contortus (L.) P. Beauv. ex Roem. & Schult. in relation to three grazing strategies - moderate stocking at long-term carrying capacity, heavy stocking and rotational wet season spelling. The research was conducted in permanent quadrats on the predominant land type in an extensive grazing study in an Aristida-Bothriochloa pasture in north Australia between 1998 and 2010. Summer rainfall was above average for two periods - 1998-2001 and 2008-2010 with drought and below-average rainfall from 2002 to 2007. Low rainfall affected the dynamics of all grasses by reducing survival and basal area through its effect on plant size; this impact was most noticeable for the shorter-lived Aristida spp., P. effusum and H. contortus. The impact of grazing was greatest on the long-lived B. ewartiana and C. fallax; this effect was accentuated by the 2002-07 drought. Heavy grazing during this period further reduced the survival and size of B. ewartiana in comparison with the moderate stocking and rotational spell treatments. In contrast, the survival of C. fallax was reduced in the moderate stocking and rotational spelling treatment during drought, relative to that under heavy grazing. The density of B. ewartiana declined even under moderate grazing and despite two sequences of above-average rainfall because seedling recruitment failed to offset mature plant death. Results from this study emphasised the importance of maintaining the existing populations of key long-lived species such as B. ewartiana through good management. These results also supported the overall findings from the grazing study indicating that stocking at the long-term carrying capacity is sustainable in managing for climate variability.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:Bothriochloa ewartiana, Chrysopogon fallax, grass dynamics, rainfall variability, stocking rate.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural meteorology. Crops and climate
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Methods and systems of culture. Cropping systems
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Live Archive:25 Jan 2018 04:59
Last Modified:12 Mar 2024 05:20

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