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Title: Perennial grassland dynamics on fertile plains: Is coexistence mediated by disturbance?
Contributor(s): Lewis, Tom (author); Clarke, Peter John  (author); Reid, Nicholas  (author)orcid ; Whalley, Ralph D  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2008
DOI: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2007.01801.x
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Abstract: The response of grasslands to disturbance varies with the nature of the disturbance and the productivity of the landscape. In highly productive grasslands, competitive exclusion often results in decreased species richness and grazing may allow more species to coexist. Once widespread, grasslands dominated by 'Dichanthium sericeum' (Queensland bluegrass) and 'Astrebla spp'. (Mitchell grass) occur on fertile plains but have been reduced in extent by cultivation. We tested the effects of exclusion of livestock grazing on these grasslands by comparing the floristic composition of sites in a nature reserve with an adjacent stock reserve. In addition, sites that had been cultivated within the nature reserve were compared with those where grazing but no cultivation had occurred. To partition the effects of temporal variation from spatial variation we sampled sites in three different years (1998, 2002 and 2004). Some 194 taxa were recorded at the nature reserve and surrounding stock routes. Sampling time, the occurrence of past cultivation and livestock grazing all influenced species composition. Species richness varied greatly between sampling periods relating to highly variable rainfall and water availability on heavy clay soils. Native species richness was significantly lower at previously cultivated sites (13–22 years after cultivation), but was not significantly influenced by grazing exclusion. After 8 years it appears that reintroducing disturbance in the form of livestock grazing is not necessary to maintain plant species richness in the reserve. The highly variable climate (e.g. droughts) probably plays an important role in the coexistence of species by negating competitive exclusion and allowing interstitial species to persist.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Austral Ecology, 33(2), p. 128-139
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Place of Publication: Carlton South, Australia
ISSN: 1442-9985
Field of Research (FOR): 060208 Terrestrial Ecology
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 960804 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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