Spatial and seasonal patterns of cattle habitat use in a mountain wooded pasture
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Management-oriented models of cattle habitat use often treat grazing pressure as a single variable summarizing all cattle activities. This paper addresses the following questions: How does the spatial pattern of cattle effects vary between cattle activities in a highly heterogeneous landscape? Do these patterns change over the grazing season as forage availability decreases? What are the respective roles of natural and management-introduced structures? We estimated the intensity of herbage removal, dung deposition and trampling after each of three grazing periods on a grid of 25 m x25 m cells covering an entire paddock in the Swiss Jura Mountains. We found no significant positive correlations between cattle effects. Spatial patterns weakened through the season for grazing and trampling, whereas dunging patterns changed little between grazing periods. Redundancy analysis showed that different cattle effects were correlated with different environmental variables and that the importance of management-introduced variables was highest for herbage removal. Autocorrelograms and partial redundancy analyses using principal coordinates of neighbour matrices suggested that dunging patterns were more coarse-grained than the others. Systematic differences in the spatial and seasonal patterns of cattle effects may result in complex interactions with vegetation involving feedback effects through nutrient shift, with strong implications for ecosystem management. In heterogeneous environments, such as pasture-woodland landscapes, spatially explicit models of vegetation dynamics need to model cattle effects separately.
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