Environmental Management

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 301–308 | Cite as

Montane Meadow Plant Community Response to Livestock Grazing

  • Matthew R. Freitas
  • Leslie M. RocheEmail author
  • Dave Weixelman
  • Kenneth W. Tate


We examined long-term (10 years) meadow plant community responses to (1) livestock grazing under riparian grazing utilization limits; (2) suspension of livestock grazing; and (3) meadow site wetness and precipitation on the Inyo National Forest, California. Observed trends in meadow plant species richness, diversity, and frequency of soil stabilizing species were not significantly different between grazed (N = 16) and non-grazed (N = 9) study sites (P > 0.12 in all cases). Modest increases in richness and diversity were observed over the study period, but frequency of soil stabilizing species was constant. These results suggest that riparian conservation grazing strategies implemented during the study period neither degraded nor hampered recovery of meadow plant community conditions relative to non-grazed conditions. Meadow site wetness was negatively correlated to richness (P < 0.01) and diversity (P < 0.01), but was positively correlated to soil stabilization (P = 0.02). Precipitation was not a significant predictor for plant community responses.


Sierra Nevada Riparian standards and guidelines United State Forest Service Public lands Inyo National Forest Kern Plateau 



This research was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. David Lile, D. J. Eastburn, Kristin Oles, Kevin Rice, Andrew Latimer, Anne Yost, and Anton Jackson provided valuable assistance and insights in developing this manuscript.


  1. Allen-Diaz BH (1991) Water table and plant species relationships in Sierra Nevada meadows. Am Midl Nat 126(1):30–43. doi: 10.2307/2426147 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armour CL, Duff DA, Elmore W (1991) The effects of livestock grazing on riparian and stream ecosystems. Fisheries 16(1):7–11Google Scholar
  3. Baldwin B, Goldman D, Keil D, Patterson R, Rosatti T (eds) (2012) The Jepson manual: vascular plants of California, 2nd edn. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  4. Belsky AJ, Matzke A, Uselman S (1999) Survey of livestock influences on stream and riparian ecosystems in the Western United States. J Soil Water Conserv 54(1):419–431Google Scholar
  5. Beschta RL, Donahue DL, DellaSala DA, Rhodes JJ, Karr JR, O’Brien MH, Fleischner TL, Williams CD (2013) Adapting to climate change on western public lands: addressing the ecological effects of domestic, wild, and feral ungulates. Environ Manag 51(2):474–491. doi: 10.1007/s00267-012-9964-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowns JE, Bagely CF (1986) Vegetation responses to long-term sheep grazing on mountain-ranges. J Range Manag 39(5):431–434. doi: 10.2307/3899445 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brunson MW, Steel BS (1996) Sources of variation in attitudes and beliefs about federal rangeland management. J Range Manag 49(1):69–75. doi: 10.2307/4002728 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burton T, Smith S, Cowley E (2010) Riparian area management: multiple indicator monitoring (MIM) of stream channel and streamside vegetation. USDI Bureau of Land Management. Technical Reference 1737-23, Denver, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  9. Castelli RM, Chambers JC, Tausch RJ (2000) Soil–plant relations along a soil-water gradient in Great Basin riparian meadows. Wetlands 20(2):251–266. doi: 10.1672/0277-5212(2000)020[0251:SPRAAS]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clary WP (1999) Stream channel and vegetation responses to late spring cattle grazing. J Range Manag 52(3):218–227. doi: 10.2307/4003683 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clary WP, Leininger WC (2000) Stubble height as a tool for management of riparian areas. J Range Manag 53(6):562–573. doi: 10.2307/4003148 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clary WP, Webster BF (1990) Riparian grazing guidelines for the Intermountain Region. Rangelands 12(4):209–212Google Scholar
  13. Dull RA (1999) Palynological evidence for 19th century grazing-induced vegetation change in the Southern Sierra Nevada, California, USA. J Biogeogr 26(4):899–912. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.1999.00330.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dwire KA, Kauffman JB, Brookshire ENJ, Baham JE (2004) Plant biomass and species composition along an environmental gradient in montane riparian meadows. Oecologia 139(2):309–317. doi: 10.1007/s00442-004-1498-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dwire KA, Kauffman JB, Baham JE (2006) Plant species distribution in relation to water-table depth and soil redox potential in montane riparian meadows. Wetlands 26(1):131–146. doi: 10.1672/0277-5212(2006)26[131:PSDIRT]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. ESRI (2010) ArcToolbox, ArcMap 10.0Google Scholar
  17. Fleischner TL (1994) Ecological costs of livestock grazing in western North America. Conserv Biol 8(3):629–644. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1994.08030629.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. George M, Jackson RD, Boyd CS, Tate KW (2011) A scientific assessment of the effectiveness of riparian management practices. In: Briske DD (ed) Conservation benefits of rangeland practices: assessment, recommendations, and knowledge gaps. Allen, Lawrence, pp 213–252Google Scholar
  19. Green DM, Kauffman JB (1995) Succession and livestock grazing in a northeastern Oregon riparian ecosystem. J Range Manag 48(4):307–313. doi: 10.2307/4002482 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hall FC, Bryant L (1995) Herbaceous stubble height as a warning of impending cattle grazing damage to riparian areas. USDA Forest Service. PNW-GTR-362Google Scholar
  21. Hammersmark CT, Rains MC, Mount JF (2008) Quantifying the hydrological effects of stream restoration in a montane meadow, Northern California, USA. River Res Appl 24(6):735–753. doi: 10.1002/Rra.1077 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Holland KA, Leininger WC, Trlica MJ (2005) Grazing history affects willow communities in a montane riparian ecosystem. Range Ecol Manag 58(2):148–154. doi: 10.2111/1551-5028(2005)58<148:GHAWCI>2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huntsinger L, Forero L, Sulak A (2010) Transhumance and pastoralist resilience in the western United States. Pastoralism 1:1–15. doi: 10.3362/2041-7136.2010.002 Google Scholar
  24. Kauffman JB, Krueger WC (1984) Livestock impacts on riparian ecosystems and streamside management implications—a review. J Range Manag 37(5):430–438. doi: 10.2307/3899631 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kauffman JB, Krueger WC, Vavra M (1983) Grazing history affects willow communities in a montane riparian ecosystem. Range Ecol Manag 37(6):430–438. doi: 10.2111/1551-5028(2005)58<148:GHAWCI>2.0.CO;2 Google Scholar
  26. Kleinfelder D, Swanson S, Norris G, Clary W (1992) Unconfined compressive strength of some streambank soils with herbaceous roots. Soil Sci Soc Am J 56(6):1920–1925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Knapp RA, Matthews KR (1996) Livestock grazing, golden trout, and streams in the Golden Trout Wilderness, California: impacts and management implications. N Am J Fish Manag 16(4):805–820. doi: 10.1577/1548-8675(1996)016<0805:LGGTAS>2.3.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kondolf GM (1993) Lag in stream channel adjustment to livestock exclosure, White Mountains, California. Restor Ecol 1(4):226–230. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.1993.tb00031.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kuhn TJ, Safford HD, Jones BE, Tate KW (2011) Aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands and their contribution to plant diversity in a semiarid coniferous landscape. Plant Ecol 212(9):1451–1463. doi: 10.1007/s11258-011-9920-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Leege TA, Herman DJ, Zamora B (1981) Effects of cattle grazing on mountain meadows in Idaho. J Range Manag 34(4):324–328. doi: 10.2307/3897861 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Loheide SP, Gorelick SM (2007) Riparian hydroecology: a coupled model of the observed interactions between groundwater flow and meadow vegetation patterning. Water Resour Res 43(7):1–16. doi: 10.1029/2005WR004444 Google Scholar
  32. Lowry CS, Loheide SP, Moore CE, Lundquist JD (2011) Groundwater controls on vegetation composition and patterning in mountain meadows. Water Resour Res 47(10):1–16. doi: 10.1029/2010WR010086 Google Scholar
  33. Lucas RW, Baker TT, Wood MK, Allison CD, Vanleeuwen DM (2004) Riparian vegetation response to different intensities and seasons of grazing. J Range Manag 57(5):466–474. doi: 10.2307/4003975 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Manning ME, Swanson SR, Svejcar T, Trent J (1989) Rooting characteristics of four intermountain meadow community types. J Range Manag 42(4):309–312. doi: 10.2307/3899500 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Matthews KR (1996) Habitat selection and movement patterns of California golden trout in degraded and recovering stream sections in the Golden Trout Wilderness, California. N Am J Fish Manag 16(3):579–590. doi: 10.1577/1548-8675(1996)016<0579:HSAMPO>2.3.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCune B, Grace JB (2002) Analysis of ecological communities. MjM Software, Gleneden BeachGoogle Scholar
  37. McIlroy SK, Allen-Diaz BH (2012) Plant community distribution along water table and grazing gradients in montane meadows of the Sierra Nevada Range (California, USA). Wetl Ecol Manag 20(4):287–296. doi: 10.1007/s11273-012-9253-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Micheli ER, Kirchner JW (2002) Effects of wet meadow riparian vegetation on streambank erosion–1. Remote sensing measurements of streambank migration and erodibility. Earth Surf Proc Land 27(6):627–639. doi: 10.1002/Esp.338
  39. Norton JB, Jungst LJ, Norton U, Olsen HR, Tate KW, Horwath WR (2011) Soil carbon and nitrogen storage in upper montane riparian meadows. Ecosystems 14(8):1217–1231. doi: 10.1007/s10021-011-9477-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Odion DC, Dudley TL, D’Antonio CM (1988) Cattle grazing in southeastern Sierran meadows: ecosystem change and prospects for recovery. In: Hall CAJ, Doyle-Jones V (eds) Plant biology of Eastern California natural history of the White-Inyo range symposium, vol 2. pp 277–292Google Scholar
  41. Oksanen J, Kindt R, Legendre P, O'Hara B, Stevens H (2007) The vegan package, version 1.17-7. Accessed 1 Apr 2011
  42. PRISM (2013) PRISM Climate Group. Northwest Alliance for Computational Science & Engineering. Accessed 1 Jan 2011
  43. R Development Core Team (2010) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  44. Rabe-Hesketh S, Skrondal A (2008) Multilevel and longitudinal modeling using Stata, 2nd edn. Stata, College StationGoogle Scholar
  45. Ratliff R (1985) Meadows in the Sierra Nevada of California: state of knowledge. USDA Forest Service. PSW-GTR-84, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  46. Sarr DA (2002) Riparian livestock exclosure research in the western United States: a critique and some recommendations. Environ Manag 30(4):516–526. doi: 10.1007/s00267-002-2608-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schulz TT, Leininger WC (1990) Differences in riparian vegetation structure between grazed areas and exclosures. J Range Manag 43(4):295–299. doi: 10.2307/3898920 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. StataCorp (2013) Stata statistical software: release 13.0. Stata, College StationGoogle Scholar
  49. Sulak A, Huntsinger L (2002) The importance of federal grazing allotments to central Sierran oak woodland permittees: a first approximation. In: Standiford RB, McCreary D, Purcell KL (eds) Proceedings of the fifth symposium on oak woodlands: oaks in California’s challenging landscape. General Technical Report PSW-184. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Albany, pp 43–51Google Scholar
  50. Trimble SW, Mendel AC (1995) The cow as a geomorphic agent—a critical review. Geomorphology 13(1–4):233–253. doi: 10.1016/0169-555x(95)00028-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Winward AH (2000) Monitoring the vegetation resources in riparian areas. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Rearch Station. RMRS-GTR-47, Ogden, UtahGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew R. Freitas
    • 1
  • Leslie M. Roche
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dave Weixelman
    • 2
  • Kenneth W. Tate
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.United States Forest Service, Pacific Southwest RegionNevada CityUSA

Personalised recommendations