• Long-Term Livestock Exclusion in an Arid Grassland Alters Vegetation and Soil

      Allington, Ginger R. H.; Valone, Thomas J. (Society for Range Management, 2011-07-01)
      Changes in soil and vegetation due to livestock grazing are occurring in arid lands throughout the world. The most extreme cases result in desertification, which is seen as largely irreversible, because of altered soil properties. To understand better how long-term livestock removal affects soil properties and vegetation, we compared water-infiltration rates, soil bulk density, and perennial grass cover inside and outside a long-term livestock exclosure in an arid grassland site in southeastern Arizona, United States. The site had not been desertified at the time of this study. Exclusion of livestock for 40 yr was associated with lower bulk density and higher water infiltration in both the dry and wet seasons. Perennial grass cover was higher and two native grasses, Eragrostis intermedia and Bouteloua hirsuta were significantly more common (P < 0.05) in the ungrazed area. These findings parallel our results from a desertified site and suggest that changes in soil physical properties associated with long-term livestock removal are not an artifact of desertification and can take place in a system that has remained in a grassland state. Our data suggest that, although significant changes in species composition have occurred, this grassland is relatively resilient to substantial changes in soil physical properties.