The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Soil hydrology and vegetation as impacted by goat grazing in Vertisols and Regosols in semi-arid shrublands of northern Mexico

Nallely A. Carbajal-Morón A , Mario G. Manzano B D and Ricardo Mata-González C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Engineering and Science, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico 64849.

B School of Engineering and Science, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Avenue. E. Garza Sada 2501 Sur, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico 64849.

C Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email: mario.manzano@itesm.mx

The Rangeland Journal 39(4) 363-373 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17061
Submitted: 2 June 2017  Accepted: 26 August 2017   Published: 27 September 2017

Abstract

Shrubland ecosystems are less studied than grasslands regarding the role of domestic grazing on ecosystem degradation in the world, but particularly in Mexico. Of special concern is the paucity of research on soil hydrological responses to the impact of livestock. Here, we assessed the role that specific soil and surface characteristics play in soil hydrology as a response to goat grazing intensity in two different soil types, Regosol and Vertisol, in the Tamaulipan thornscrub of north-eastern Mexico. At each soil unit, a set of grazing regimes was identified, including heavy grazing (HG), moderate grazing (MG) and a no-grazing (NG) reference area, and selected soil properties and plant cover were evaluated. In Regosol sites, soil organic matter varied among all grazing regimes (4.6% higher on NG and 2.1% higher on MG with respect HG) and no dissimilarities on bulk density were recorded. For Vertisol sites, soil bulk density increased with grazing intensity (16% higher on MG and 37% higher on HG with respect to NG) whereas plant cover linearly decreased from 86% in NG to 29% in MG and 9% in HG sites. Soil organic matter content for Regosol, and plant cover and soil bulk density for Vertisol appeared as the best indicators of water infiltration and moisture retention for the grazing conditions assessed. Differences in those key driving variables may help explain surface hydrology responses to goat grazing in rangeland soils of Tamaulipan thornscrub ecosystems and possibly on similar rangelands around the world. Clear signs of vegetation degradation were also observed, manifested by a loss in species diversity and plant cover, especially under heavy grazing. This reflects unsustainable livestock management practices that should be avoided. This study contributes to improve our understanding of rangeland degradation processes and justifies devising more sustainable grazing management schemes.

Additional keywords: floristic analyses, grazing intensity, grazing management, grazing pressure, plant diversity.


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