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Title: Cattle grazing in semiarid forestlands: Habitat selection during periods of drought

Author: Roever, C. L.; DelCurto, T.; Rowland, M.; Vavra, M.; Wisdom, M.;

Date: 2015

Source: Journal of Animal Science. 93(6): 3212-.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Climate change models are predicting increased frequency and severity of droughts in arid and semiarid environments, and these areas are responsible for much of the world’s livestock production. Because cattle (Bos Taurus) grazing can impact the abundance, distribution, and ecological function of native plant and animal communities, it is important to understand how cattle might respond to increasingly arid conditions. Here, we evaluate changes in habitat selection by cattle across an 8-yr period as a function of rainfall and other environmental covariates. Using resource selection functions, we evaluated habitat selection based on 2 behaviors, stationary and mobile. Models revealed similarity in cattle habitat selection across years, with only modest changes in selection as a function of precipitation, despite marked seasonal and interannual differences in rainfall. Cattle preferred gentle slopes, forest edges, wet meadows, and areas near water as well as areas far from water on plateaus. Cattle avoided areas at intermediate distances from water, typically associated with steep slopes. As conditions became drier during the late season, cattle did not switch selection patterns but instead contracted their selection around water. Cattle also selected similar habitats whether they were mobile or stationary, possibly making microsite decisions therein. This consistent pattern of selection across years could be particularly problematic for riparian communities as climates become drier; however, it may also simplify cattle management, as range managers can focus vegetation monitoring efforts on riparian areas. Due to the uncertainty surrounding future climatic conditions, it is imperative that both range and wildlife managers develop longterm plans to continue managing these multiuse landscapes in an ecologically sustainable manner based on expected patterns of livestock grazing.

Keywords: biodiversity, Bos Taurus, cattle, climate change, impacts, public land

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Roever, C.L.; DelCurto, T.; Rowland, M.; Vavra, M.; Wisdom, M. 2015. Cattle grazing in semiarid forestlands: Habitat selection during periods of drought. Journal of Animal Science. 93(6): 3212-3225.


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