The University of Arizona

Effects of cattle grazing on blue oak seedling damage and survival.

L.M. Hall, M.R. George, D.D. McCreary, T.E. Adams


Cattle grazing has been suggested as a principal cause for poor oak recruitment in California's hardwood rangelands. This study evaluated the effects of stock density and season of grazing on blue oak (Quercus douglasii H. & A.) establishment. In December 1989, seven hundred and twenty blue oak seedlings were planted on 3-m centers in 30 plots in 3 annual grassland pastures at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center east of Marysville, Calif. The treatments consisted of 3 seasons X 3 stock densities plus 1 nongrazed control. During January, April, and July of 1990, steers and heifers (mean = 318 kg) were allowed to graze 1 plot per week at low, medium, and high stock densities (2.5, 7.5, and 15.0 head/ha, respectively). Control plots were used to monitor wildlife browsing. One half of all seedling sites received an application of glyphosate prior to transplanting to eliminate grass competition. Browsing and trampling damage were estimated at the end of each treatment. Total damage (sum of browsing and trampling damage), browsing damage, trampling damage, and survival to April 1991 were significantly different for the 9 season and stock density treatments (P < 0.05). Spring and summer grazing tended to be most damaging and resulted in the lowest survival rates. Within each season total damage increased with stock density but survival did not change significantly. Weed control around oak seedlings had no apparent effect on total damage or survival. There were significant differences in browsing damage between seasons but not between control and grazed plots within seasons (P < 0.05). Survival in ungrazed plots was not significantly different (P < 0.05) from the spring and summer grazed plots. Consequently, the contribution of wildlife to reduced blue oak seedling survival in grazed oak woodlands should not be underestimated.


crop damage;recruitment;Quercus douglasii;seedlings;stocking rate;winter;spring;summer;grazing intensity;browsing damage;California;woodlands;cattle;range management;seasonal variation;grazing

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