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Analysis of livestock use of riparian areas: literature review and research needs assessment for British Columbia

Author(s) or contact(s): G.W. Powell, K.J. Cameron, and R.F. Newman
Source: Research Branch
Subject: Water Quality
Series: Working Paper
Other details:  Published 2000. Hardcopy is available.
 

Abstract

Riparian areas are diverse, productive, and important to the overall ecological framework of British Columbia. There is heightened awareness of the potential effects of resource management activities in riparian areas. This concern is encapsulated in riparian regulations and guidelines of the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act. Information regarding livestock use of riparian areas was compiled and reviewed as a .first step in developing research to address the information needs of riparian area management in British Columbia. Literature on the effects and interactions of livestock grazing in riparian areas throughout North America was reviewed. Six general conclusions were drawn from the synthesis and review of the literature:

1. Most of the available information on livestock-riparian interactions is primarily applicable to arid ecosystems (equivalent to, or drier than, the Bunchgrass biogeoclimatic zone),
2. Most of the available information on livestock-riparian interactions is applicable to lotic ecosystems (actively moving water),
3. Most of the research conducted has focused on contrasting extremes (e.g., comparing very heavy grazing to an ungrazed control),
4. Appropriate levels of livestock use that maintain good-quality riparian habitat are difficult to quantify,
5. Effects of livestock grazing in riparian areas on wildlife habitat are variable (grazing creates or enhances some wildlife habitat, while eliminating or degrading other wildlife habitat),
6. Riparian areas and the effects of livestock grazing have not been studied adequately at a landscape level.

Considering these general conclusions, nine recommendations were formulated to guide the development of research on livestock use of riparian areas. The recommendations are as follows:
1. Research on range riparian areas in British Columbia must focus on ecosystems outside those that the current body of literature represents; a system should be developed to prioritize which ecosystems need to be addressed first.
2. Research on range riparian areas in British Columbia must include wetlands, ponds, and lakeshores.
3. Research on range riparian areas in British Columbia should test the impact
of livestock at stocking rates, levels of use, and timing that are normally or feasibly prescribed in British Columbia and recommend changes where the standard stocking rates are inappropriate.
4. Research addressing appropriate range use in riparian areas in British Columbia must include the physiological response of specific plants within specific habitats. Grazing prescriptions should not attempt to generate a level of use, or grazing system, that is universally appropriate for all riparian vegetation, in all ecosystem units.
5. A classification and description of all riparian types used for livestock grazing should be completed through an extension of the biogeoclimatic ecological classification and range reference areas system because appropriate use depends on formulating range prescriptions on an ecosystem basis.
6. Research on the effects of range use (livestock grazing and hay cutting) on riparian wildlife species in British Columbia should focus initially on the effects and interactions with red- and blue-listed species.
7. Research on the effects of range use on riparian wildlife habitat in British Columbia needs to address the appropriate amount and connectivity of habitat necessary to sustain various wildlife populations.
8. Research on the effects of range use in riparian areas in British Columbia should address the issue at a landscape level in addition to measuring site-specific impacts to determine the cumulative and spatial consequences of individual site management.
9. Research on the effects of range use in riparian areas in British Columbia should address the management of the adjacent uplands to address the riparian issues at a landscape level.

Working Paper 52 (557 KB)

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Updated July 24, 2015