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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #346903

Research Project: Assessment, Conservation and Management of Rangelands in Transition

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: Rangeland vegetation diversity and transition pathways under indigenous pastoralist management regimes in southern Ethiopia

Author
item Liao, Chuan - University Of Michigan
item Clark, Pat

Submitted to: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/15/2017
Publication Date: 1/1/2018
Citation: Liao, C., Clark, P. 2018. Rangeland vegetation diversity and transition pathways under indigenous pastoralist management regimes in southern Ethiopia. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 252:105-113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.10.009.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.10.009

Interpretive Summary: Indigenous pastoralist management regimes may strongly affect rangeland vegetation dynamics but the mechanisms with which different vegetation functional groups respond to these livestock grazing effects are still poorly understood. By integrating plant survey with GPS-tracking of cattle movement, we investigated rangeland vegetation diversity responses to differing intensities of cattle grazing associated with an indigenous pastoralist community in southern Ethiopia. The results indicate that vegetation structure and composition are significantly different under three distinct indigenous land use types. These findings indicate that managing for moderate grazing pressure optimizes the balance between pastoral productivity and resource sustainability.

Technical Abstract: Woody plant encroachment on the rangelands has been identified as a major threat to subsistence livestock herding globally. Among various determinants, indigenous pastoralist management regimes strongly affect rangeland vegetation dynamics at the local scale. However, mechanisms of how different vegetation functional groups respond to livestock grazing under complex management regimes are yet to be explored. By integrating plant survey with GPS-tracking of cattle movement, we investigate rangeland vegetation diversity and spatial distribution of grazing intensity in an indigenous pastoralist community in southern Ethiopia, and explore the patterns of plant-livestock interaction. The results indicate that vegetation structure and composition are significantly different under three distinct indigenous land use types. Spatial distribution of grazing intensity is heterogeneous under indigenous rangeland management regimes. While herbaceous cover is generally lower in locations with heavier grazing pressure, a moderate grazing intensity is associated with the lowest woody cover. The findings imply that moderate grazing pressure appears to be the optimal strategy to balance pastoral livelihoods and resource sustainability.