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14 November 2019 Effects of Livestock Grazing Management on Grassland Birds in a Northern Mixed-Grass Prairie Ecosystem
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Abstract

Grassland birds have undergone substantial population declines throughout much of their historic ranges in North America. Most of the remaining grassland bird habitat is restricted to rangelands managed for livestock production, so grazing management has strong implications for grassland bird conservation efforts. We conducted 1 830 point-count surveys at 305 sites during 2016–2017 to evaluate the relative effects of three livestock grazing systems on the abundance and community composition of grassland birds in a northern mixed-grass prairie ecosystem of eastern Montana, United States. Our objectives were to 1) evaluate effects of grazing management on abundance and community composition of grassland obligate birds, focusing specifically on grazing systems, stocking rates, and interactions with rangeland productivity; 2) evaluate the importance of local vegetation characteristics for grassland birds within grazing systems; and 3) assess the effectiveness of rest-rotation grazing to create patch-heterogeneity in rangeland vegetation through the alteration of structural components and the response of grassland birds to these treatments. Overall, we found inconsistent responses in abundances of grassland birds relative to livestock grazing systems and no discernable differences among grazing systems relative to community composition. However, local abundances were often driven by interactions between grazing system and rangeland production potential, suggesting the effects of livestock grazing management were generally mediated by rangeland productivity. In addition, associations between avian abundance and grazing management parameters (e.g., stocking rate) were species specific. Ubiquitous guidelines for livestock grazing systems may be inappropriate for grassland bird conservation efforts in the northern mixed-grass prairie, and high stocking rates may negatively impact populations of dense-grass obligate grassland birds in this region.

© 2019 The Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Skyler T. Vold, Lorelle I. Berkeley, and Lance B. McNew "Effects of Livestock Grazing Management on Grassland Birds in a Northern Mixed-Grass Prairie Ecosystem," Rangeland Ecology and Management 72(6), 933-945, (14 November 2019). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2019.08.005
Received: 12 April 2019; Accepted: 9 August 2019; Published: 14 November 2019
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