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Grazing intensity effects on the vegetation in desert rangelands of Southern Tunisia

Abstract

Although the effects of non-grazing and heavy grazing on vegetation structure have been extensively studied in a wide range of ecosystems, the effects of moderate grazing on desert land are still largely unknown. Many management opportunities exist for increasing forage intake. In order to determine an optimal management method of desert rangelands with high heritage value, we examined the respective effects of heavy grazing, moderate grazing and non-grazing on total vegetation cover, species richness, the Shannon-Wiener diversity index and rangeland productivity. Sampling was done from 2010 to 2012 (from the second year after treatments were imposed) using permanent transects under different grazing intensities. While total vegetation cover, species richness, Shannon-Wiener diversity index, species composition and primary production were significantly greater on the ungrazed site and significantly weaker on the heavily grazed site, in contrast, moderate grazing had no significant effect on total vegetation cover, species richness, Shannon diversity index, species composition and primary production. These studies suggest that desert rangelands plant communities in general lack response to moderate grazing disturbance, and if managed properly they can provide a valuable source of feed for livestock.

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Correspondence to Mouldi Gamoun.

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Gamoun, M. Grazing intensity effects on the vegetation in desert rangelands of Southern Tunisia. J. Arid Land 6, 324–333 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-013-0202-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-013-0202-y

Keywords

  • rangelands management
  • grazing pressure
  • richness
  • diversity
  • productivity