• Stubble height as a tool for management of riparian areas

      Clary, W. P.; Leininger, W. C. (Society for Range Management, 2000-11-01)
      Stubble height, a measure of the herbaceous vegetation remaining after grazing, has been widely used in recent years to gage the impacts of grazing use in riparian areas. Stubble height is a short-term management guide that should only be applied to help attain long-term ecological objectives; it should not be thought of as a long-term management objective. Maintaining a minimum stubble height helps preserve forage plant vigor, retain sufficient forage to reduce cattle browsing of willows (Salix spp.), stabilize sediments, indirectly limit streambank trampling, maintain cattle gains, and provide an easily communicated management criterion. Based on limited specific research of riparian system response and on knowledge of the characteristics of how cattle graze, a 10-cm residual stubble height is recommended by the authors as a starting point for improved riparian grazing management. Monitoring should then be conduted to determine if an adjustment is needed. In some situations, 7 cm or even less stubble height may provide for adequate riparian ecosystem function, particularly when streambanks are dry and stable or possibly at high elevations where vegetation is naturally of low stature. In other situations, 15-20 cm of stubble height may be required to reduce browsing of willows or limit trampling impact to vulnerable streambanks. The recommended criterion would apply to streamside and nearby meadow sites with hydrophilic or potentially hydrophilic vegetation, but not directly to dry meadows or even to all wet meadows. Stubble height may have little application where the streambanks are stabilized by coarse substrates, or the channels are deeply incised. The effects of residual stubble height in riparian functions have received limited direect experimental examination. Consequently, much of the information in this review was derived from studies indirectly related to the questions raised and, to some extent, from observations of experienced professionals. The authors have identified areas of scientific investigation needed to improve our understanding of the effects of stubble height on riparian function and grazing management.