Context-dependent effects of livestock grazing in deserts of western North America

By: , and 



This chapter provides a general review of grazing disturbance by large mammalian grazers and the role of ecological context in moderating its effects, with emphasis on North American deserts. It discusses the ecological consequences of cessation of livestock grazing and present a case study from the Mojave Desert, United States of America. A primary effect of grazing is selective removal and ingestion of herbaceous plants, in contrast to removal of woody biomass from woody plants by browsing herbivores. The consequences of grazing–and resilience of a system to grazing disturbance–are highly context-dependent and vary across rangelands globally. Synergistic interactions between soil depth and plant structural properties, such as rooting depth and water-use efficiency, also influence plant access to water, and therefore moderate plant responses to drought and resilience to grazing. In some ecosystems, livestock grazing constitutes a novel or intensified disturbance. Application of the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis to grazing disturbance has been relatively infrequently tested relative to other ecological disturbances.

Study Area

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Context-dependent effects of livestock grazing in deserts of western North America
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher CRC Press
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 26 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Disturbance ecology and biological diversity: Scale, context, and nature
First page 89
Last page 113
Country United States
State California, Nevada
Other Geospatial Mojave Desert
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details