Theme 4: Wildlife--Oral Sessions

Description

Western Canada’s native grasslands support high levels of avian diversity including both resident and migrant species. Many grassland specialist bird populations, however, are in serious decline due to widespread habitat loss resulting from agricultural conversion and adverse land management. As the primary use on remaining grasslands, cattle grazing largely determines the availability and quality of bird species’ habitat, depending on the timing, intensity, and frequency of livestock use. While adaptive multi-paddock grazing (AMP, a short duration, high-intensity grazing system that prioritises plant recovery between grazing events) is growing in popularity, comprehensive assessments of bird diversity in relation to AMP grazing practices are largely lacking. As part of a larger grazing management study, we examined how AMP grazing practices influence the taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of bird species, compared to neighbouring (n-AMP) properties managed with more conventional grazing practices. In addition to the AMP/n-AMP contrast, we used rancher survey information to test for the influence of specific grazing practices over and above biophysical effects. Bird communities were surveyed at 309 point count locations across 38 ranches (set up as matched pairs) using visual and acoustic detection. Overall, we identified 96 bird species, of which 81 species were recorded on AMP-grazed ranches compared to 84 species on grasslands under n-AMP grazing, ranging from 10-32 species per ranch. We observed a considerable grazing management signal on species abundance and diversity including significant associations between some threatened species and n-AMP grazing. Moreover, AMP grazing, and specifically the use of higher rest-to-grazing ratios early in the growing season (prior to August 1), was associated with phylogenetically more clustered bird communities. Overall, this study highlights the potential of specialized rotational grazing systems to alter the composition and phylogenetic diversity of grassland bird communities. In conclusion, we stress the importance for prioritisation of strategic management plans to safeguard and restore North America’s grassland bird communities.

Share

COinS
 

Bird Community Responses to Rest-Rotation Grazing in Western Canada's Grasslands

Western Canada’s native grasslands support high levels of avian diversity including both resident and migrant species. Many grassland specialist bird populations, however, are in serious decline due to widespread habitat loss resulting from agricultural conversion and adverse land management. As the primary use on remaining grasslands, cattle grazing largely determines the availability and quality of bird species’ habitat, depending on the timing, intensity, and frequency of livestock use. While adaptive multi-paddock grazing (AMP, a short duration, high-intensity grazing system that prioritises plant recovery between grazing events) is growing in popularity, comprehensive assessments of bird diversity in relation to AMP grazing practices are largely lacking. As part of a larger grazing management study, we examined how AMP grazing practices influence the taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of bird species, compared to neighbouring (n-AMP) properties managed with more conventional grazing practices. In addition to the AMP/n-AMP contrast, we used rancher survey information to test for the influence of specific grazing practices over and above biophysical effects. Bird communities were surveyed at 309 point count locations across 38 ranches (set up as matched pairs) using visual and acoustic detection. Overall, we identified 96 bird species, of which 81 species were recorded on AMP-grazed ranches compared to 84 species on grasslands under n-AMP grazing, ranging from 10-32 species per ranch. We observed a considerable grazing management signal on species abundance and diversity including significant associations between some threatened species and n-AMP grazing. Moreover, AMP grazing, and specifically the use of higher rest-to-grazing ratios early in the growing season (prior to August 1), was associated with phylogenetically more clustered bird communities. Overall, this study highlights the potential of specialized rotational grazing systems to alter the composition and phylogenetic diversity of grassland bird communities. In conclusion, we stress the importance for prioritisation of strategic management plans to safeguard and restore North America’s grassland bird communities.