Spatial and temporal effects of grazing management and rainfall on the vertebrate fauna of a tropical savanna
The Rangeland journal
Grazing by domestic livestock is one of the most widespread uses of the rangelands of Australia. There is limited information on the effects of grazing by domestic livestock on the vertebrate fauna of Australia and the establishment of a long-term grazing experiment in north-eastern Queensland at Wambiana provided an opportunity to attempt an examination of the changes in vertebrate fauna as a consequence of the manipulation of stocking rates. The aim was to identify what the relative effects
... relative effects of vegetation type, stocking rate and other landscape-scale environmental factors were on the patterns recorded. Sixteen 1-ha sites were established within three replicated treatments (moderate, heavy and variable stocking rates). The sites were sampled in the wet and dry seasons in 1999-2000 (T 0 ) and again in 2003-04 (T 1 ). All paddocks of the treatments were burnt in 1999. Average annual rainfall declined markedly between the two sampling periods, which made interpretation of the data difficult. A total of 127 species of vertebrate fauna comprising five amphibian, 83 bird, 27 reptile and 12 mammal species were recorded. There was strong separation in faunal composition from T 0 to T 1 although changes in mean compositional dissimilarity between the grazing stocking rate treatments were less well defined. There was a relative change in abundance of 24 bird, four mammal and five reptile species from T 0 to T 1 . The generalised linear modelling identified that, in the T 1 data, there was significant variation in the abundance of 16 species explained by the grazing and vegetation factors. This study demonstrated that vertebrate fauna assemblage did change and that these changes were attributable to the interplay between the stocking rates, the vegetation types on the sites surveyed, the burning of the experimental paddocks and the decrease in rainfall over the course of the two surveys. It is recommended that the experiment is sampled again but that the focus should be on a rapid survey of abundant taxa (i.e. birds and reptiles) to allow an increase in the frequency of sampling and replication of the data. This would help to articulate more clearly the trajectory of vertebrate change due to the relative effects of stocking rates compared with wider landscape environmental changes. Given the increasing focus on pastoral development in northern Australia, any opportunity to incorporate the collection of data on biodiversity into grazing manipulation experiments should be taken for the assessment of the effects of land management on faunal species.