An article published in the latest issue of Conservation Biology findsthat cattle grazing plays an important role in maintaining wetlandhabitat necessary for some endangered species. Removing cattle fromgrazing lands in the Central Valley of California could, inadvertently,degrade the vernal pool habitat of fairy shrimp and tiger salamanders.Cattle grazing influences the rates of evaporation which work togetherwith climate to determine the depth and duration of wetland flooding.Cattle have been grazing in the land for roughly 150 years and havebecome a naturalized part of the ecosystem. "In practical terms, thismeans that grazing may help sustain the kinds of aquatic environmentsendangered fairy shrimps need to survive," author Christopher R. Pykestates.
The authors looked at 36 vernal pools on two different geologicformations on a 5000-ha ranch in eastern Sacramento County, California.Their experiments found that removal of grazing reduced the duration ofwetland flooding by an average of 50 days per year. Their simulationsshow that climate change could compound these impacts, potentially,leaving endangered fairy shrimp and tiger salamanders without enoughtime to mature before their temporary aquatic environments disappear."Consequently, land managers can play an important role in climatechange impacts, i.e. they can exacerbate or ameliorate, the localimpacts of global change." Pyke adds. Conservationists may find thatgrazing is not always a negative factor, and it presents realopportunities to adapt to climate variability and climate change.
Conservation Biology is a top-ranked journal in the fields of Ecologyand Environmental Science and has been called, "required reading forecologists throughout the world." It is published on behalf of theSociety for Conservation Biology.
Christopher R. Pyke conducted the work while he was a David H.Smith fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis andSynthesis. He now works with the U.S. EPA's Global Change ResearchProgram. He has a long standing interest in developing practicalclimate adaptation strategies.
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