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Ecology of the Shortgrass SteppeA Long-Term Perspective$
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W. K. Lauenroth and I. C. Burke

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195135824

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195135824.001.0001

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Effects of Grazing on Abundance and Distribution of Shortgrass Steppe Consumers

Effects of Grazing on Abundance and Distribution of Shortgrass Steppe Consumers

Chapter:
(p.459) 18 Effects of Grazing on Abundance and Distribution of Shortgrass Steppe Consumers
Source:
Ecology of the Shortgrass Steppe
Author(s):

Daniel G. Milchunas

William K. Lauenroth

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195135824.003.0022

Although livestock are the most obvious consumers on the shortgrass steppe, they are certainly not the only consumers. However, livestock may influence the other consumers in a number of different ways. They may directly compete for food resources with other aboveground herbivores. There is behavioral interference between livestock and some species of wildlife (Roberts and Becker, 1982), but not others (Austin and Urness, 1986). The removal of biomass by livestock alters canopy structure (physiognomy) and influences microclimate. Bird, small-mammal, and insect species can be variously sensitive to these structural alterations (Brown, 1973; Cody, 1985; MacArthur, 1965; Morris, 1973; Rosenzweig et al., 1975; Wiens, 1969). There are both short- and long-term effects of grazing on plant community species composition, primary production, and plant tissue quality. Belowground consumers can also be affected by the effects of grazing on soil water infiltration, nutrient cycling, carbon allocation patterns of plants, litter accumulation, and soil temperature. The overall effects of livestock on a particular component of the native fauna can be negative or can be positive through facilitative relationships (Gordon, 1988). In this chapter we assess the effects of cattle grazing on other above- and belowground consumers, on the diversity and relative sensitivity of these groups of organisms, and on their trophic structure. We first present some brief background information on plant communities of the shortgrass steppe and on the long-term grazing treatments in which many of the studies reported herein were conducted. Details on the plant communities are presented by Lauenroth in chapter 5 (this volume), grazing effects on plant communities by Milchunas et al. in chapter 16 (this volume); and grazing effects on nutrient distributions and cycling by Burke et al. in chapter 13 (this volume). The physiognomy of the shortgrass steppe is indicated in its name. The dominant grasses (Bouteloua gracilis and Buchloë dactyloides), forb (Sphaeralcea coccinea), and carex (Carex eleocharis) have the majority of their leaf biomass within 10 cm of the ground surface. A number of less abundant midheight grasses and dwarf shrubs are sparsely interspersed among the short vegetation, but usually much of their biomass is within 25 cm of the g round. Basal cover of vegetation typically totals 25% to 35%, and is greater in long-term grazed than in ungrazed grassland. Bare ground (more frequent on grazed sites) and litter-covered ground (more frequent on ungrazed sites) comprise the remainder of the soil surface (Milchunas et al., 1989).

Keywords:   Arthropods, Bison, Cassin’s Sparrows, Deer mice, Grasshoppers, Horned Larks, Jackrabbits, Lagomorphs, Macroarthropods, Nematodes

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