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Grazers as Managers

Image Credit: Andrea Linja, Pixabay Licence, Image Cropped

Livestock grazing regulates ecosystem multifunctionality in semiarid grassland (2018) Ren et al., Functional Ecology, DOI: http://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13215

The Crux

Grassland is the most common type of land cover on our planet, and about one third of the Earth’s population depends on these ecosystems to survive. Grasslands are not only the most common terrestrial ecosystem, but they are also some of the most vulnerable to degradation.

Sustainable grazing practices on these ecosystems are incredibly important when trying to maintain or improve the health of the many organisms that call grasslands home. The challenge with maintaining ecosystem multifunctionality is that trade offs between different functionalities are common, making it difficult to accomplish every goal at once. When managers try to maximize the productivity of a system this may reduce the overall diversity, as this often involves promoting the dominant plant species at the expense of every other species. The authors of this study were interested in determining the effects of grazing on environmental multifunctionality, so they analyzed what impact grazers had on multiple traits of the grassland ecosystem. Read more