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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Can prairie dog-cattle interactions be used to remediate desertified Chihuahuan Desert grasslands?

Authors
item Rodrigo, Sierra Corona - UNAM
item Frederickson, Eddie
item Ceballos Gonzalez, Gerardo - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV
item Gonzalez, Alfredo
item Laliberte, Andrea - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV
item Davidson, Ana - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV
item Sanchez, Rurik - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV
item Bezanilla, Gerardo - UNIV. AUTONOMA DE CHICHAH
item Gevara, Eduardo Ponce - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV

Submitted to: Ecological Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 2007
Publication Date: August 5, 2007
Citation: Rodrigo, S., Fredrickson, E.L., Ceballos Gonzalez, G., Gonzalez, A.L., Laliberte, A.S., Davidson, A.D., Sanchez, R.L., Bezanilla, G., Gevara, E. 2007. Can prairie dog-cattle interactions be used to remediate desertified Chihuahuan Desert grasslands [abstract]? Ecological Society of America 92nd Annual Meeting, August 5-10, 2007, San Jose, California. PS 39-205 CDROM.

Technical Abstract: Chihuahuan Desert grasslands are undergoing a rapid transition to desert scrub conditions. In an effort to remove prairie dogs that are believed to compete with cattle, pastoralists have created a cascade of events promoting shrub expansion and severely reducing the viability of pastoralism within many Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems. The resulting desertification leads to depauperate socio-ecological conditions, with attempts to remediate desertified landscapes often being tenuous and seldom cost effective. The goal of this and other studies are to develop a better understanding of ecosystem drivers, and their interactions, within the Janos-Nuevo Casas Grandes prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) complex in northwest Chihuahua. Beef cattle (Bos taurus) habitat selection was measured on a desert grassland-prairie dog ecosystem using GPS, GIS, and remote sensing technologies inside 4 x 4 km pasture. To classify vegetation we used multispectral Quickbird imagery with 60 cm resolution and eCognition software. We grouped the vegetation in 6 different types: Aristida spp. (50%), Pleuraphis mutica (8%), Panicum obtusum (8%), Bouteloa gracilis (15%), Amaranthus palmeri (4%) and prairie dog colonies (15%). Analyses of cattle movements during the dormant season show a direct preference for the prairie dog colonies, with minimal use of other vegetation types. In smaller scale studies beef cattle showed a preference for forages near the margins of the prairie dog colonies. From these observations we further hypothesize that cattle may help maintain black-tailed prairie dog colonies via mutualistic interactions that may promote the formation and maintenance of Chihuahuan Desert grasslands in this region.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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