One constraint that range scientists must face in grazing studies is the lack of accurate and repeatable techniques for discriminating grazing effects from both temporal variability and spatial heterogeneity of vegetation. Both forms of variability contribute to inconsistent grazing system effects on vegetation response and forage production in semiarid ecosystems. Remote sensing may be an efficient tool for detecting differences in spatial and temporal patterns of grazing impact on vegetation. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the spectral data derived from satellite images as a tool for comparing grazing system impacts on spatial and temporal vegetation patterns. We evaluated the effect of two grazing systems, “Continuous” (C) and “Two-Paddocks Rest-Rotation” (TPRR), on vegetation cover from 1996 to 2006 in a semiarid ecosystem of Argentina. We compared grazing effects on vegetation cover using two indices derived from the Normalized Difference of Vegetation Index (NDVI) data from Landsat Thematic Mapper images. We observed a slight advantage in NDVI improvement for the TPRR over the C. Even though, in both grazing systems, an upward vegetation trend occurred only in areas located far from the watering points, TPRR showed higher relative vegetation cover near the watering point than C. We consider this methodology an important step for monitoring vegetation changes and making management decisions in livestock systems of semiarid regions because grazing system impacts may be compared for both spatial and temporal vegetation patterns. However, we think that the key next step is to develop procedures that discriminate between forage and nonforage components.
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Vol. 62 • No. 5