To fill this knowledge gap, we set up a triplicate, full factorial grazing experiment with cattle and horse grazing at low and high stocking densities (0.5 or 1 animal ha−1) at the mainland coast of the Dutch Wadden Sea. Here, we present the results after 4 years and integrate these with previously published results from the same experiment to assess effects of livestock grazing on various trophic groups.
Stocking density affected almost all measured variables: high stocking densities favoured plant species richness and suppression of E. atherica, whereas low stocking densities favoured abundances of voles, pollinators and flowers. Densities of different functional groups of birds showed no significant response to the regimes, but tended to be somewhat higher under 0.5 horse and 1 cattle ha−1.
Choice of livestock species had fewer and smaller effects than stocking density. Horse grazing was detrimental to vole density, and showed an interactive effect with stocking density for Asteraceae flower abundance. Multidiversity, a synthetic whole-ecosystem biodiversity measure, did not differ among regimes. These results are discussed in the light of other results from the same experiment.
Because of these contrasting effects on different trophic groups, we advise concurrent application of different grazing regimes within a spatial mosaic, with the inclusion of long-term abandonment. High density horse grazing, however, is detrimental to biodiversity.
- School of Environmental Sciences - Lecturer in Marine Ecosystem Services
- Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences - Member
- Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Use of the Seas - Member
- Environmental Biology - Member
Person: Research Group Member, Academic, Teaching & Research