Effect of Rancher’s Management Philosophy, Grazing Practices, and Personal Characteristics on Sustainability Indices for North Central Texas Rangeland Page: 21
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Under continuous, moderately-stocked, grazing livestock tend to select local areas that
lack accumulations of biomass from previous years. This behavior produces small, heavily
grazed patches interspersed within avoided or lightly grazed patches. In effect, this creates a
pattern of small-scale structural heterogeneity (Bailey et al., 1996). At a larger scale, livestock
concentrate near water, thus increasing grazing pressure on vegetation near water and reducing
grazing pressure on vegetation distant from water. The result is larger-scale heterogeneity. This
gradient of grazing pressure associated with distance to water masks the small-scale
heterogeneity both close to and distant from watering points.
This heterogeneity has some advantages and disadvantages. Failure to consider the
spatial components of herbivory in carrying capacity calculations and assessments of ecosystem
persistence can contribute to overgrazing, failed economic development efforts, and declines of
wildlife populations (Coughenour, 1994). Grazing under enclosed conditions does not occur
uniformly over time or over a landscape (Ash and Stafford-Smith, 1996; Bailey et al., 1996;
Witten et al., 2005) and selective use of plants and landscape components under continuous
grazing can cause a gradually widening area of degradation under, even at light to moderate
stocking rates (Ash and Stafford-Smith, 1996).
Livestock grazing large paddocks exhibit spatial patterns of repetitive use, heavily using
preferred patches and avoiding or lightly using others. The process of patch-selective grazing
results in the effective stocking rate on heavily used patches being much higher than that
intended for the area as a whole. Alternatively, the intended goal of the manager may alter the
desirability for rangeland patch dynamics. Greater spatial heterogeneity in vegetation provided
greater variability in the grassland bird community. Fuhlendorf et al. (2006) demonstrated that
increasing spatial and temporal heterogeneity of disturbance in grasslands increases variability in
vegetation structure that results in greater variability at higher trophic levels. Thus, management
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Becker, Wayne. Effect of Rancher’s Management Philosophy, Grazing Practices, and Personal Characteristics on Sustainability Indices for North Central Texas Rangeland, dissertation, December 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103289/m1/32/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .