Submitted to: International Grasslands Congress
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/11/2004
Publication Date: 7/1/2005
Citation: Goslee, S.C., Sanderson, M.A. 2005. Ecosystem management in pasture communities: tools from restoration ecology. International Grasslands Congress. 20:767 Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: Pasture systems have the potential to improve both economic and environmental sustainability in agricultural communities worldwide. To achieve maximum benefits, pasture plant communities must be tailored to the climate, the site type and the goals of the producer. We approach the problem by adapting a three-step conceptual framework from restoration ecology. The three steps, inventory, assessment and remediation, were designed for managers interested in restoring degraded native ecosystems, but can be applied equally well in managed grazing ecosystems. Inventory results are based on a survey of pasture vegetation in the northeastern United States begun in 1998. Modified Whittaker plot sampling was used on 126 pastures on 42 farms, many sampled in multiple years. The Pasture Condition Score was used as a preliminary assessment tool. A few plant species, notably white clover and dandelion, were extremely common, but most of the 286 species identified were rare in pastures. Plant community composition was strongly related to latitude, topography and soil factors, demonstrating the importance of including these site properties when planning pasture management. It was also related to certain components of the Pasture Condition Score. This study brings us closer to the goal of evaluating the ecosystem function of existing pastures based on inventory data, and to designing pasture plant communities to meet economic and environmental goals. Restoration ecology, which deals with creating and maintaining particular ecosystem types, can provide valuable lessons for the management of pasture ecosystems.