, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 279-289

Impact of Grazing on Plant Species Richness, Plant Biomass, Plant Attribute, and Soil Physical and Hydrological Properties of Vertisol in East African Highlands

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Abstract

Understanding the problems of grazing land in vertisol areas and seeking long-lasting solutions is the central point where mixed crop livestock is the second stay for the majority of the population. In order to understand this, the current study was conducted at two sites, one with 0–4% slope and the other with 4–8% slope at Ginchi watershed, 80 km west of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The specific objectives of the study were to quantify changes in plant species richness, biomass, plant cover, and soil physical and hydrological properties. The grazing regimes were: moderate grazing (regulated), heavy grazing (free grazing), and no grazing (closed to any grazing), which was considered the control treatment. The results showed that the biomass yield in nongrazed plots was higher than in the grazed plots. However, the biomass yield in grazed plots improved over the years. Species richness and percentage of dominant species attributes were better in medium grazed plots than the other treatments. Soil compaction was higher in very heavily grazed plots than in nongrazed and medium-grazed plots. In contrast to that, the soil water content and infiltration rate were better in nongrazed plots than in grazed plots. Soil loss in grazed plots decreased with the increase of biomass yields and as the soil was more compacted by livestock trampling during the wet season. Finally since the medium stocking rate is better in species richness and plant attributes, and lies between nongrazed and heavily grazed plots in the rest of the measured parameters, it could be the appropriate stocking rate to practice by the smallholder farmer.