The University of Arizona

Recovery of a high elevation plant community after packhorse grazing.

K.M. Olson-Rutz, C.B. Marlow, K. Hansen, L.C. Gagnon, R.J. Rossi


We evaluated the impact of packstock grazing on a dry, upper timberline meadow. Horses were picketed on 15 m ropes for different durations, months, and frequencies over 3 summers. Before horse grazing, we estimated vegetal, bare soil, litter, rock, and moss cover, measured grass and forte plant heights, counted grass and forte stems per area, and determined the percent of plants grazed. These measurements were repeated 1 growing season later. More bare ground and less litter and vegetal cover were recorded 1 year following single 8- or 18-hour grazing events. Single grazing events of 4-hour duration had no effect on cover. Decreases in vegetal cover were associated with reduced stem numbers. Eighteen hour picket durations reduced subsequent year production of grass and forte stems. We discuss the difficulties encountered in this study, including estimates of necessary sample sizes, to help in the design of future studies.


stand density;environmental impact;wilderness;meadows;ground cover;highlands;horses;grazing experiments;natural grasslands;grazing intensity;plant communities;Montana

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