A quantitative review was conducted of the effects of cattle grazing in arid systems on 16 response variables ranging from soil bulk density to total vegetative cover to rodent species diversity. Various studies from North American arid environments that used similar measures for assessing grazing effects on the same response variables were used for the review; each study was assigned to serve as a single data point in paired comparisons of grazed versus ungrazed sites. All analyses tested the 1-tailed null hypothesis that grazing has no effect on the measured variable. Eleven of 16 analyses (69%) revealed significant detrimental effects of cattle grazing, suggesting that cattle can have a negative impact on North American xeric ecosystems. Soil-related variables were most negatively impacted by grazing (3 of 4 categories tested were significantly impacted), followed by litter cover and biomass (2 of 2 categories tested), and rodent diversity and richness (2 of 2 categories tested). Vegetative variables showed more variability in terms of quantifiable grazing effects, with 4 of 8 categories testing significantly. Overall, these findings could shed light on which suites of variables may be effectively used by land managers to measure ecosystem integrity and rangeland health in grazed systems.
"Effects of cattle grazing on North American arid ecosystems: a quantitative review,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 60
, Article 5.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol60/iss2/5