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Grazing in remnant woodland vegetation: changes in species composition and life form groups

Pettit, N.E., Froend, R.H. and Ladd, P.G.ORCID: 0000-0002-7730-9685 (1995) Grazing in remnant woodland vegetation: changes in species composition and life form groups. Journal of Vegetation Science, 6 (1). pp. 121-130.

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Grazing by domestic livestock in native woodlands can have major effects on ecosystem functioning by the removal of plant species that form important functional groups. This paper documents the changes in floristics in a large group of remnants of native woodland left after agricultural clearing in southwestern Australia. Species richness and diversity were significantly reduced in remnants and the proportion of exotic species increased. Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA) was used to identify floristic and environmental patterns among plots and identified two distinct groups based on grazing intensity. This indicated that the significance of the relationship between grazing effects and DCA floristic axes was greater than edaphic characteristics that normally influence floristic patterns. Floristic characteristics of sites that were influencing the position of plots on the ordination diagram included proportion of exotic species and proportion of native perennial shrubs and herbs. Numbers of species of native shrubs and perennial herbs were significantly reduced in grazed plots and numbers of exotic annual grasses and herbs were significantly higher. Other life form groups such as native perennial grasses and geophytes were not significantly affected by grazing. Reproductive strategies of perennial species showed a significant decrease in numbers of resprouters and a significant increase in numbers of facultative seeder/sprouters. Exclosure plots showed increases in number and cover of perennial shrubs and herbs after three years whereas number and cover of exotic species did not change. Time series DCA showed that the floristic composition of exclosure plots in grazed sites became closer to that of the ungrazed sites.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Opulus Press
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