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Vegetation dynamics in burnt heather-gorse shrublands under different grazing management with sheep and goats

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Vegetation dynamics in previously burnt shrublands dominated by gorse (Ulex gallii) in north-west Spain were studied during 4 years under different grazing managements with sheep (Gallega breed) and goats (Cashmere or local breed). Initially (Period 1), treatments consisted of sheep or goat grazing on four plots (two replicates). After two grazing seasons, the plots were split in two and the treatments were reversed in four of the subplots; sheep were placed in subplots previously grazed by goats and vice versa (Period 2). The results from Period 1 showed that goats control the regrowth of gorse (from 19.6 to 14.2% of cover) more effectively than sheep (17.8 to 27.0% cover; P < 0.05), favouring the increase in herbaceous plants (from 21.5 to 42.1% of cover under goat grazing and from 22.1 to 26.6% under sheep grazing; P < 0.01). In Period 2, after changing treatments, there was a clear effect of the previous management (P < 0.01), conditioning the dynamics of the different plant components. Where the same animal species were maintained for 4 years, the differences between sheep or goat grazing on gorse and herbaceous plant dynamics increased (24.4% of gorse and 35.2% of herbaceous plant cover under goat grazing vs 43.8% of gorse cover and 19.1% of herbaceous plant cover under sheep grazing). Animal species change buffered the differences between sheep and goats during the second Period.

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We thank the staff at “Carbayal” experimental farm (SERIDA) for assistance with field work, vegetation samplings and animal management. This work is supported by CICYT (Spain), project AGL2003-05432. Berta Martínez Jáuregui is recipient of a predoctoral fellowship from INIA

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Correspondence to B. M. Jáuregui.

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Jáuregui, B.M., Celaya, R., García, U. et al. Vegetation dynamics in burnt heather-gorse shrublands under different grazing management with sheep and goats. Agroforest Syst 70, 103–111 (2007).

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