Rangelands are areas used primarily for grazing by domestic livestock; however, because they support native vegetation and fauna, their potential role in conservation should not be overlooked. Typically, “off-reserve” conservation in agricultural landscapes assumes a trade-off between maintaining the ecological processes that support biodiversity and successful food production and profitability. To evaluate this potential biodiversity trade-off in rangelands, we need to understand the effect of different livestock grazing strategies on biodiversity, in relation to their performance in terms of profitability and land condition. We monitored reptile community responses to four cattle-grazing strategies (heavy, moderate, and variable stocking rates and a rotational wet season spelling treatment) in a replicated, long-term grazing trial in north Queensland, Australia. Simultaneously, measures of profitability and land condition were collected for the different grazing strategies. Overall, reptile abundance was not negatively impacted by the more sustainably managed treatments (moderate, variable, and rotational) compared with heavy stocking, although the effect of grazing treatment alone was not significant. Profitability and land condition were also higher in these treatments compared with the heavy stocking rate treatment. As drought conditions worsened over the 3 yr, the negative impact of the heavy stocking treatment on both profitability and biodiversity became more pronounced. Heavy stocking negatively impacted reptiles and was also the least profitable grazing strategy over the long term, resulting in the worst land condition. This suggests that in this tropical savanna rangeland there was no trade-off between economic performance and reptile abundance and diversity. Grazing regimes with a moderate stocking rate or flexible management strategies were better able to buffer the effects of climate variability. The consequence was a more resilient reptile community and better economic outcomes in dry years.
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Vol. 71 • No. 2