, Volume 212, Issue 3, pp 423-432
Date: 04 Sep 2010

Grazing effects on species richness depends on scale: a 5-year study in Tenerife pastures (Canary Islands)

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Abstract

The effect of herbivores on species richness is important for the conservation of protected areas under grazing management but research findings on this are far from consistent. The main objective of this study is to analyze how the cessation of grazing by goats affects the diversity parameters at different scales over a 5-year period. The study was conducted in the Teno Rural Park in the northwest corner of Tenerife, Canary Islands. The studied areas have been grazed by livestock since the beginning of the 16th century and currently are used by local farmers, mainly for extensive goat production. In these areas we selected four blocks and in each block four 100 m2 plots were established, two excluded from grazing (located in 12 × 12 m2 exclosures) and two control plots. The analyses showed an accumulation of species in the control plots significantly higher than in exclosure plots at small scales. Power function parameters such as c and z only showed differences in function for the sampling year and not for the treatment. Although the results showed an increase in species richness due to grazing, this is very small. However, negative effects in native species richness are not detected, so we suggest the promotion of goat grazing as a way to maintain land use, cultural values, and species richness in these pastures.