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A Study Shows Cattle Grazing May Help Endangered Species

October 12, 2005, by Ayinde O. Chase - All Headline News Staff Writer

Central Valley, Ca (AHN) - An article published in the latest issue of Conservation Biology states cattle grazing plays an important role in maintaining wetland habitat necessary for some endangered species.

Removing cattle from grazing lands in the Central Valley of California could, inadvertently, degrade the vernal pool habitat of fairy shrimp and tiger salamanders.

Cattle grazing affects the rate of evaporation, which works together with the climate to determine the depth and duration of wetland flooding.

Cattle have been feeding on the land for over 150 years and have found a way to be a naturalized part of the ecosystem. Author Christopher R. Pyke states, "In practical terms, this means that grazing may help sustain the kinds of aquatic environments endangered fairy shrimps need to survive."

The experiments showed removal of grazing reduced the duration of wetland flooding by an average of 50 days per year.

Their simulations show that climate change could compound these impacts, potentially, leaving endangered fairy shrimp and tiger salamanders without enough time to mature before their temporary aquatic environments disappear.

Pyke adds, "Consequently, land managers can play an important role in climate change impacts, i.e. they can exacerbate or ameliorate, the local impacts of global change."

Conservationists may find grazing is not always a negative factor, and it presents real opportunities to adapt to climate variability and climate change.

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