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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Effects of grazing and invasive grasses on desert vertebrates in California

Published source details

Germano D.J., Rathbun G.B. & Saslaw L.R. (2012) Effects of grazing and invasive grasses on desert vertebrates in California. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 76, 670-682


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Exclude livestock from semi-natural habitat (including woodland) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, controlled study in 1998–2006 in sagebrush shrubland previously affected by wildfire in California, USA (Germano et al. 2012) found that excluding livestock did not alter the abundance of five small mammal species. Over eight years, abundance of San Joaquin antelope squirrel Ammospermophilus nelson did not differ significantly between areas where livestock were excluded (4–38 animals/plot) and grazed areas (2–29 animals/plot). The same pattern was true for short nosed kangaroo rat Dipodomys nitratoides nitratoides (1–55 vs 3–58 animals/plot), Heermann’s kangaroo rat Dipdomys heermanni (0–4 vs 0–22), giant kangaroo rat Dipodomys ingens (0–4 vs 0–3), and San Joaquin pocket mouse Perognathus inornatus inornatus (1–10 vs 1–17). Four 2.6-km2 areas were grazed by cattle and four 25-ha areas were fenced to exclude livestock. To estimate antelope squirrel abundance, 64 traps, baited with oats, at 40-m intervals, were established in each plot. To estimate abundance of other small mammals, 144 traps, baited with bird seed, were established in each plot at 10-m intervals. Traps were set for six consecutive days and nights in July–September 1998–2006.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Other biodiversity: Use grazers to manage vegetation Mediterranean Farmland

A replicated, controlled study in 1997–2006 in scrub and grassland in central California, USA, found more ground-dwelling invertebrates in cattle-grazed plots, compared to ungrazed plots. The abundances of one of five mammals and one of three reptiles increased faster in grazed plots, compared to ungrazed plots. The abundance of one mammal species was lower in grazed plots, in some years. Less vegetation was left in grazed plots. Invertebrates: Fewer ground-dwelling invertebrates were found in grazed plots, compared to ungrazed plots, in six of nine years (data not provided). Abundances of grasshoppers did not differ between grazed and ungrazed plots (8–1,600 individuals/count). Mammals: Abundances of giant kangaroo rats Dipodomys ingens increased by 1.6 individuals/year in grazed plots, but did not increase in ungrazed plots. The changes in abundances of four other species did not differ between grazed and ungrazed plots. Heerman’s kangaroo rats Dipodomys heermanni were less abundant in grazed plots in some years (0–3 vs 0–22 individuals). Abundances of San Joaquin pocket mice Perognathus inornatus inornatus differed between grazed and ungrazed plots, but not consistently. The abundances of three other mammals did not differ between grazed and ungrazed plots. Reptiles: The abundance of blunt-nosed leopard lizards increased at a greater rate in grazed plots (6.8 vs 1.4 extra individuals/year). The change in abundances of two other species, and the overall abundances of all three species did not differ between grazed and ungrazed plots. Plants: At the end of the grazing season, less vegetation was left in grazed plots, in eight of ten years (20–2,100 vs 900–4,000 kg/ha). Methods: Four 2.6 km2 plots were established and grazed from December to leave approximately 560 kg dry matter/ha by April. Therefore, grazing intensity varied over time, and plots were not grazed at all in 2002–2004. Within each plot, a 25 ha plot was left ungrazed. Mammals were surveyed using 64 traps in each plot for six days and six nights in July–September each year. Grasshoppers and day-active lizards were surveyed visually within 9 ha grids, on ten days in May–July each year. Ground-dwelling invertebrates were monitored with pitfall traps. Vegetation was monitored on the same grids as lizards and clipped to assess biomass.