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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Effect of vertebrate grazing on plant and insect community structure
Year: 1999
Author(s): Rambo, J. L., Faeth, S. H.
Source Title: Conservation Biology
Source Type: Journal
pages: 1047-1054
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: We compared species diversity of plants and insects among grazed and ungrazed areas of Ponderosa pine-grassland communities in Arizona. Plant species richness was higher in two of three grassland communities that were grazed by native elk and deer and domestic cattle than in ungrazed areas inside a series of three large (approximately 40-ha) grazing exclosures. Similarly, plant species richness was higher in grazed areas relative to ungrazed areas at one of two series of smaller (approximately 25-m(2)) and short-term exclosure sites. Evenness of plant distribution, however, was greater inside ungrazed long-term exclosures but was reduced inside ungrazed short-term exclosures relative to grazed areas. Relative abundances of forbs, grasses, trees, and shrubs, and native and introduced plants did not differ between the long- and short-term grazing exclosures and their grazed counterparts. Relative abundances of some plant species changed when grazers were excluded however. In contrast, insect species richness was not different between grazed and ungrazed habitats, although insect abundance increased 4- to 10-fold in ungrazed vegetation. Our results suggest that vertebrate grazing may increase plant richness, even in nutrient-poor, semi-arid grasslands, but may decrease insect abundances.