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Effects of adaptive multiple paddock and continuous grazing on fine-scale spatial patterns of vegetation species and biomass in commercial ranches

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Abstract

Context

In rangelands, alterations to vegetation from grazing have potentially significant consequences for a wide variety of ecosystem structure and function.

Objectives

This study measured the herbivory effects of adaptive multi-paddock grazing (AMP) and continuous grazing (CG) practices on spatial patterns of vegetation, plant community species composition, and productivity in neighboring ranches in Mississippi, USA.

Methods

Assessments included on ground-measurements and remote sensing analyses using fine-scale aerial photographs and satellite images.

Results

The results indicated that the spatial patterns of the classified seven vegetation species groups and biomass production were different between AMP and CG. Bahiagrass dominated the plant species in both ranches, with ~ 83% and 58% of the CG and AMP ranch vegetation cover. The AMP ranch landscape was fragmented, more diverse at a fine spatial scale, and consisted of smaller, more similar patch sizes for all seven species. A patchy mosaic of all the species was found, but no species were abundant adequately to interconnect throughout the entire landscape. In contrast, patch sizes on the CG ranch were more aggregated, with one dominant species clumped into larger compact patches. Vegetation production in the AMP ranch was higher and clustered into large patches: Hot and Cold Spots with an apparent spatial trend and configuration. In contrast, in the CG ranch, relatively smaller Spots were interspersed with no apparent spatial trend.

Conclusions

The findings imply a potential change in the landscape pattern of grazing land in the Southern U.S. associated with adoption of AMP grazing.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful for the financial support from McDonald’s, ExxonMobil and Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (Grant award #514752) and the ranch owners of Cooper Hurst and Prentiss Fergusson for the permission to conduct the study on their ranches. We would also like to thank Patrick S. Daniels, Will Overbeck, Tyler O. Schwartz, Sheila J. McCabe, Brandon C. Moore, Kristin McElligott, and Jason Carlson for the field data collection and in-office data processing.

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Correspondence to Fugui Wang.

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Wang, F., Apfelbaum, S.I., Thompson, R.L. et al. Effects of adaptive multiple paddock and continuous grazing on fine-scale spatial patterns of vegetation species and biomass in commercial ranches. Landscape Ecol 36, 2725–2741 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-021-01273-z

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