Research needs, environmental concerns, and logistical considerations for incorporating livestock grazing into coastal upland habitat management
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Research needs, environmental concerns, and logistical considerations for incorporating livestock grazing into coastal upland habitat management

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Environmental Management
  • Description:
    Along the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) coast, natural resource managers continually struggle with managing coastal uplands due to front-end costs, prolonged maintenance, and habitat-specific ecological needs. Prescribed fire, mechanical removal, and chemical treatments are common habitat management techniques used to remove invasive species, clear understory, and achieve other management goals. However, rapid development and changing climate exacerbate the difficulty in using these techniques. A potential alternative or complementary technique is using livestock for habitat management (i.e., targeted or controlled grazing). In other regions of the world, using livestock for conservation or restoration of managed lands has shown to be a less intrusive and more financially viable alternative. To better understand the research needs, logistical, and environmental concerns related to using livestock for habitat management in the coastal uplands of the GoM, we developed and distributed a survey to three groups of land users, including natural resource managers, researchers, and livestock producers in the region. Survey results show that over 96% of respondents are interested in using livestock for habitat management, but less than 10% of respondents were aware of any information that could be used to inform grazing practices for coastal upland habitat management along the Gulf of Mexico coast. There were differences among surveyed groups, but generally small-sized cattle breeds and goats were identified as the livestock with the most potential for environmental benefit and ease of containment. General concerns and areas for further investigation were implementation (e.g., which livestock type to use and grazing intensity), logistical considerations (e.g., fencing and rotational frequency), impacts of grazing on water quality, wildlife, vegetation, and livestock nutrition. Survey respondents overwhelmingly (at least 75% of each group) indicated that livestock grazing ideally would not be a standalone management practice and should be used in conjunction with other habitat management techniques such as prescribed burns, mechanical clearing, or chemical treatments. The results of the survey could be used to develop applied research projects and guidance documents that directly address informational needs related to using livestock for habitat management of coastal uplands along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
  • Source:
    Journal of Environmental Management 329 (2023) 117119
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    Accepted Manuscript
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