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Community responses of arthropods to a range of traditional and manipulated grazing in shortgrass steppe
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Livestock grazing has context-dependent impacts on grassland plant and animal communities. In grassland ecosystems that have evolved with large herbivores, such as the North American Great Plains with bison (Bison bison), responses of plants to grazing are better understood, and more predictable, than responses of consumers. In 2003, we began a large-scale, replicated experiment to examine effects of a grazing gradient on communities of two important consumer groups, arthropods and small mammals, in shortgrass steppe of northeastern Colorado, USA. Our objectives were: 1) to assess whether modifications of the intensity and seasonality of livestock grazing alter structure and diversity of arthropod and small mammal communities compared to traditional grazing regimes; and 2) to determine whether responses by these consumer groups are similar, and therefore provide broader generalizations of consumer responses. Treatments consisted of long-term grazing exclosures, moderate summer grazing (traditional), very intensive spring and summer grazing, and moderately grazed pastures that were also colonized by prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). In 2004 and 2006, attributes of vegetation structure and arthropod and small mammal communities were sampled on each study plot (n = 4--6 0.81-ha plots per treatment; 25 total plots). Grazing treatments affected vegetation structure, and treatments representing the extremes of the grazing gradient (long-term exclosures and grazed prairie dog colonies) affected small mammal, but not arthropod, consumer communities. Our findings suggest that responses of consumers to grazing may lag behind those for plants in this ecosystem. These results indicate that grazing is a useful tool for balancing production and conservation issues in the shortgrass steppe where services can be provided to society with only marginal impacts on community responses of consumers.
T.A. Scott Newbold
Katherine E. Levensailor
Justin D. Derner
William K. Lauenroth
USDA Scientist Submission
Environmental entomology 2014 v.43 no.3
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.
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