Recovering Functional Integrity in Pastures Dominated by an Invasive Grass Species

Firn, Jennifer, Arnold, Cliveen, & Buckley, Yvonne (2011) Recovering Functional Integrity in Pastures Dominated by an Invasive Grass Species. In Kammili, Trish, Hubert, Bernard, & Tourrand, Jean-Francois (Eds.) A Paradigm Shift in Livestock Management : From Resource Sufficiency to Functional Integrity. Cardère éditeur, Paris, pp. 221-236.

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Abstract

Exotic grasses have been introduced in countries worldwide for pasture improvement, soil stabilisation and ornamental purposes. Some of these introductions have proven successful, but many have not (Cook & Dias 2006). In Australia, the Commonwealth Plant Introduction Scheme was initiated in 1929, and over-time introduced more than 5000 species of grasses, legumes and other forage and browse plants (Cook & Dias 2006). Lonsdale (1994) suggested that, in tropical Australia, 13% of introductions have become a problem, with only 5% being considered useful for agriculture. Low (1997) suggested that 5 out of 18 of Australia's worst tropical environmental weeds were intentionally introduced as pasture grasses.

The spread and dominance of invasive grass species that degrade the quality of pastures for production can impact significantly on the livelihoods of small proprietors. Although Livestock grazing contributes only a small percentage to the world's GDP (1.5%), maintaining the long-term stability of this industry is crucial because of the high social and environmental consequence of a collapse. One billion of the world's poor are dependent on livestock grazing for food and income with this industry occupying more than 25% of the world's land base (Steinfeld et al. 2006). The ling-term sustainability of livestock grazing is also crucial for the environment. A recent FAO report attributed livestock production as a major cause of five of the most serious environmental problems: global warming, land degredation, air and water pollution, and the loss of biodiversity (Steinfeld et al. 2006). For these reasons, finding more effective approaches that guide the sustainable management of pastures is urgently needed.

In Australia more than 55% of land use is for livestock grazing by sheelp and/or cattle. This land use dominate in the semi-arid and arid regions where rainfall and soil conditions are marginal for production (Commonwealth of Australia 2004). Although the level of agriculture production by conglomerates is increasing, the majority of livestock grazing within Australia remains family owned and operated (Commonwealth of Australia 2004).

The sustainability of production from a grazed pasture is dependent on its botanical composition (Kemp & Dowling 1991, Kemp et al. 1996). In a grazed pasture, the dominance of an invasive grass species can impact on the functional integrity of the ecosystem, including production and nutrient cycling; wwhich will in turn, affect the income of proprietors and the ability of the system to recover from disturbance and environmental change. In Australia, $0.3 billion is spent on weed control in livestock production, but despite this substantial investment $1.9 billion is still lost in yield as a result of weeds (Sinden et al. 2004).

In this paper, we adaprt a framework proposed for the restoration of degraded rainforest communities (Lamb & Gilmour 2003, Lamb et al. 2005) to compare and contrast options for recovering function integrity (i.e. a diverse set of desirable plant species that maintain key ecological processes necessary for sustainable production and nutrient cycling) within pasture communities dominated by an invasive grass species. To do this, we uase a case-study of the invasion of Eragrostis curvula (Africal lovegrss; hereafter, Lovegrass), a serious concern in Australian agricultural communities (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992). The spread and dominance of Lovegrass is a problem because its low palatability, low nutritional content and competitiveness affect the livelihood of graziers by reducing the diversity of other plant species. We conclude by suggesting modifications to this framework for pasture ecosystems to help increase the effiency of strategies to protect functional integrity and balance social/economic and biodiversity values.

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ID Code: 75195
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: African Lovegrass, Species Introduction, Grazing, Sustainability, Weed Control
ISBN: 9782914053570
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 18 Aug 2014 23:23
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2014 00:27

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