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Livestock removal increases plant cover across a heterogeneous dryland landscape on the Colorado Plateau

Environmental Research Letters
By: , and 



Livestock removal is increasingly used as a management option to mitigate the negative impacts of grazing-related disturbances on rangelands. Removal generally increases plant cover, but it is unclear when, where, and by how much plant and soil cover changes can be expected. On the Colorado Plateau, complex geology, topography, soils, and climate all interact to mediate the relationship between land cover, climate, and disturbance. In this study we used new developments in land cover mapping and analysis to assess landscape plant and bare soil cover up to 30 years after livestock removal from two grazing allotments in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA. Results indicate that livestock removal increases plant cover 0.17-0.32% per year and reduces bare soil cover 0.34-0.41% per year, although these rates may be suppressed by warming temperatures. Soils, assessed through Soil Geomorphic Units, played a strong but complex role in mediating land cover changes through time. These results suggest that livestock removal is an effective strategy for increasing plant cover and reducing bare soil on the Colorado Plateau, but including soil information in decision making will enhance efficiency by improving manager's ability to prioritize management actions effectively across space and through time.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Livestock removal increases plant cover across a heterogeneous dryland landscape on the Colorado Plateau
Series title Environmental Research Letters
DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/acb728
Volume 18
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher IOP Science
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center, Western Geographic Science Center
Description 034034, 18 p.
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