The University of Arizona

Non-selective grazing impacts on soil-properties of the Nama Karoo.

P.C. Beukes, R.M. Cowling

Abstract


Non-selective grazing (NSG) is a relatively novel way of farming livestock in the Nama Karoo of South Africa. Our key question was how heavy grazing under this high-intensity, low-frequency grazing system would impact on certain soil properties. The study was designed to compare the impacts of NSG (treatment) with no grazing (control) in terms of: (1) amount of soil organic carbon (OC); (2) soil microbial respiration rates; (3) soil stability and infiltration properties. The treatment significantly lowered the amount of OC in the topsoil. Microbial respiration rates corresponded with the fertile patch matrix in both treatment and control with significantly higher respiration rates measured under plants compared to open, unvegetated areas. Respiration rates in treatment open areas were significantly higher than in control open areas. There was a trend (P < 0.1) for higher aggregate stability, final infiltration rate and cumulative infiltration for treatment open soils compared to controls during an initial rain event of 44 mm hour-1 in a rainfall simulator. During a second rain event on sealed soils only aggregate stability was significantly higher for treatment compared to control soils. We conclude that the short-duration, low-frequency, intensive herbivory by livestock under the non-selective grazing system resulted in a more active microbial community, which turned over organic matter more rapidly and led to higher soil stability and infiltration capacity of open, unvegetated soils. We present this as an example of conditions where herding by high densities of large herbivores can have positive impacts on soil quality.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v56i5_beukes


Keywords


soil microorganisms;cell respiration;infiltration (hydrology);aggregate stability;mixed grazing;soil organic matter;South Africa;stocking rate;grazing intensity;sheep;goats;cattle;range management

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