The University of Arizona

Experimental evaluation of the grazing optimization hypothesis.

S.C. Williamson, J.K. Detling, J.L. Dodd, M.I. Dyer

Abstract


The herbivore grazing optimization hypothesis predicts an increase in aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) at a moderate grazing intensity. The hypothesis was tested by grazing controlled densities (0 to 145 individuals/m2) of big-headed grasshoppers (Aulocara elliotti Thomas) for short time spans (7 to 13 days) on enclosed swards (0.7 m2) of blue grama [(Bouteloua gracilis) (Willd. ex H.B.K.) Lag. ex Griffiths]. ANPP of each of 257 experimental enclosures was estimated following regrowth by using a standing crop index (the product of mean total blade length per tiller and percent basal cover) after the grazing period and clipping after the regrowth period. ANPP was not significantly reduced by grazing in any of the 5 short-duration grazing experiments. In 2 of the 5 experiments, ANPP increased significantly with grazing. In 1 of the other 3 experiments there was evidence for the grazing optimization hypothesis.

Keywords


Acrididae;aulocara elliotti;land productivity;herbivores;grazing;grasses;Colorado

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