Environmental Management

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 377–390 | Cite as

Grazed Riparian Management and Stream Channel Response in Southeastern Minnesota (USA) Streams

  • Joseph A. MagnerEmail author
  • Bruce Vondracek
  • Kenneth N. Brooks


The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service has recommended domestic cattle grazing exclusion from riparian corridors for decades. This recommendation was based on a belief that domestic cattle grazing would typically destroy stream bank vegetation and in-channel habitat. Continuous grazing (CG) has caused adverse environmental damage, but along cohesive-sediment stream banks of disturbed catchments in southeastern Minnesota, short-duration grazing (SDG), a rotational grazing system, may offer a better riparian management practice than CG. Over 30 physical and biological metrics were gathered at 26 sites to evaluate differences between SDG, CG, and nongrazed sites (NG). Ordinations produced with nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMS) indicated a gradient with a benthic macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity (IBI) and riparian site management; low IBI scores associated with CG sites and higher IBI scores associated with NG sites. Nongrazed sites were associated with reduced soil compaction and higher bank stability, as measured by the Pfankuch stability index; whereas CG sites were associated with increased soil compaction and lower bank stability, SDG sites were intermediate. Bedrock geology influenced NMS results: sites with carbonate derived cobble were associated with more stable channels and higher IBI scores. Though current riparian grazing practices in southeastern Minnesota present pollution problems, short duration grazing could reduce sediment pollution if managed in an environmentally sustainable fashion that considers stream channel response.


Short duration grazing Channel stream bank Channel stream bed Habitat Benthic IBI 



This work was made possible by an USEPA Section 319 grant to the MPCA. Heartfelt thanks are offered to Howard Moechnig for SDG site selection, Neal Mundahl and Winona State University students for their assistance in field data collection (especially benthic macroinvertebrates), and Jason Ewert for field data collection, data entry, and GIS assistance. This article was improved by Sandy Verry, Ashley Moerke, and six anonymous reviewers. Several trade name or commercial products were cited; however, their mention does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph A. Magner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bruce Vondracek
    • 2
  • Kenneth N. Brooks
    • 3
  1. 1.Minnesota Pollution Control AgencySt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.US Geological Survey, Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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