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Climate change increases stress, need for restoration on grazed public lands

ts of livestock has been comparatively minor, they said, even as climatic impacts intensify.

Although the primary emphasis of this analysis is on ecological considerations, the scientists acknowledged that the changes being discussed would cause some negative social, economic and community disruption.

"If livestock grazing on public lands were discontinued or curtailed significantly, some operations would see reduced incomes and ranch values, some rural communities would experience negative economic impacts, and the social fabric of those communities could be altered," the researchers wrote in their report, citing a 2002 study.

Among the observations of this report:

  • In the western U.S., climate change is expected to intensify even if greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced.

  • Among the threats facing ecosystems as a result of climate change are invasive species, elevated wildfire occurrence, and declining snowpack.

  • Federal land managers have begun to adapt to climate-related impacts, but not the combined effects of climate and hooved mammals, or ungulates.

  • Climate impacts are compounded from heavy use by livestock and other grazing ungulates, which cause soil erosion, compaction, and dust generation; stream degradation; higher water temperatures and pollution; loss of habitat for fish, birds and amphibians; and desertification.

  • Encroachment of woody shrubs at the expense of native grasses and other plants can occur in grazed areas, affecting pollinators, birds, small mammals and other native wildlife.

  • Livestock grazing and trampling degrades soil fertility, stability and hydrology, and makes it vulnerable to wind erosion. This in turn adds sediments, nutrients and pathogens to western streams.

  • Water developments and diversion for livestock can reduce streamflows and increase water temperatures, degrading habitat for fish and aquatic invertebrates.


Contact: Robert Beschta
Oregon State University

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