Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/11/2005
Publication Date: 6/1/2005
Citation: Soder, K.J., Goslee, S.C. 2005. Managed grazing of riparian areas. Project Grass Magazine. 1(3):10-11.
Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: Riparian areas are particularly sensitive to overgrazing. Removal of vegetation and trampling can lead to soil compaction, increased erosion, and unstable stream banks. These in turn can lead to high levels of sediment in streams, and to warmer water temperatures, which reduce the value of the stream as fish and wildlife habitat. In general, riparian areas respond to changes in grazing management more rapidly than upland areas. At the same time, severe disturbances can cause serious damage to riparian areas and slow down the natural recovery process. Therefore, if a decision is made to graze a riparian area, a high level of management is required to maintain the health of the riparian area. If cattle are allowed into the stream, or spend a lot of time near the stream, direct deposition and near-stream runoff of manure can lead to high nutrient levels and bacterial contamination in the stream. As long as grazing is carefully managed, healthy riparian areas can tolerate moderate use. It is important to note that any specific type of management will not be appropriate for every situation- not all streams or riparian areas may respond in the same manner. Therefore it is imperative that management decisions be made on a case-by-case basis based on soil types, landscape, climate, location, type of plants present, nutrient management regulations, etc. Use of the riparian area by livestock may also be considered when developing nutrient management plans where allowed. In summary, livestock, grass, and streams can co-exist as a sustainable ecosystem with proper grazing management. Complete livestock exclusion is not necessary in all cases, and grazing may actually be beneficial in maintaining the stability and biodiversity of the riparian areas to promote soil and water health, as well as animal health and production, and wildlife habitat.