The impacts of grazing and rainfall variability on the dynamics of a Sahelian rangeland

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Abstract

The impacts of grazing pressure and rainfall variability on rangeland dynamics have been the topic of much debate. Understanding the combined impact of these two factors is crucial for the development of efficient management strategies for rangelands. In this paper, the impacts of grazing and rainfall variability on the dynamics of a Sahelian rangeland in Northern Senegal are examined. Specifically, the paper assesses their combined impact on species composition, above-ground phytomass production and rain-use efficiency (RUE), on the basis of a 10-year (1981¿1990) grazing experiment conducted in the Widou-Thiengoly catchment in the Ferlo, Northern Senegal. The experiment included both a high (0.15¿0.20 TLU ha¿1, corresponding to current grazing) and a medium (0.10 TLU ha¿1) grazing pressure. It is shown that species composition, above-ground phytomass production and RUE markedly differ for these two grazing regimes¿and that the differences are most pronounced in years with low rainfall. In dry years, both above-ground phytomass production and RUE are significantly reduced in the plots subject to a high grazing pressure. Consequently, the impacts of high grazing pressures on the productivity of the Ferlo are hardly noticed during years with normal or above normal rainfall, but the rangeland's productivity is strongly affected during a drought. The findings have important implications for the management of rangelands; they indicate that high grazing pressures may increase the vulnerability of rangeland ecosystems and local people to droughts
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-504
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume64
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • use efficiency
  • vegetation dynamics
  • species composition
  • ecology
  • systems
  • africa
  • desertification
  • nonequilibrium
  • senegal
  • precipitation

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