• Grazing impacts on litter and soil organic matter in mixed prairie and fescue grassland ecosystems of Alberta

      Naeth, M. A.; Bailey, A. W.; Pluth, D. J.; Chanasyk, D. S.; Hardin, R. T. (Society for Range Management, 1991-01-01)
      Impacts of long-term cattle grazing on litter and soil organic matter were assessed in mixed prairie, parkland fescue, and foothills fescue grasslands of Alberta, Canada. Grazing regimes were of light to very heavy intensities, grazed early, late, and continuously during the growing season. Litter and soil organic matter were sampled in 0.1-m2 quadrats and removed as live vegetation, standing litter, fallen litter, and soil organic matter. Litter and organic matter samples were air dried and sorted by size using sieves and an automatic sieve shaker. Organic carbon content was determined by thermal oxidation. Ground cover was determined using point frames, and heights of standing litter and fallen litter were measured. Heavy intensity and/or early season grazing had greater negative impacts on litter and soil organic matter than did light intensity and/or late season grazing. Under the former regimes there were significant reductions in heights of standing and fallen litter, decreases in live vegetative cover and organic matter mass, and increases in bare ground. More large particle-sized organic matter, particularly standing litter, occurred in controls than in grazed treatments since it would not be removed or trampled by grazing animals. More medium and small particle-sized organic matter occurred in grazed treatments than in ungrazed controls since vegetation likely decomposed more rapidly when it was trampled and broken down as animals grazed.