Grazed riparian management and stream channel response in southeastern Minnesota (USA) streams

Joseph A. Magner, Bruce Vondracek, Kenneth N. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service has recommended domestic cattle grazing exclusion from riparian corridors for decades. This recommendation was based on a belief that domestic cattle grazing would typically destroy stream bank vegetation and in-channel habitat. Continuous grazing (CG) has caused adverse environmental damage, but along cohesive-sediment stream banks of disturbed catchments in southeastern Minnesota, short-duration grazing (SDG), a rotational grazing system, may offer a better riparian management practice than CG. Over 30 physical and biological metrics were gathered at 26 sites to evaluate differences between SDG, CG, and nongrazed sites (NG). Ordinations produced with nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMS) indicated a gradient with a benthic macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity (IBI) and riparian site management; low IBI scores associated with CG sites and higher IBI scores associated with NG sites. Nongrazed sites were associated with reduced soil compaction and higher bank stability, as measured by the Pfankuch stability index; whereas CG sites were associated with increased soil compaction and lower bank stability, SDG sites were intermediate. Bedrock geology influenced NMS results: sites with carbonate derived cobble were associated with more stable channels and higher IBI scores. Though current riparian grazing practices in southeastern Minnesota present pollution problems, short duration grazing could reduce sediment pollution if managed in an environmentally sustainable fashion that considers stream channel response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-390
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental management
Volume42
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008

Keywords

  • Benthic IBI
  • Channel stream bank
  • Channel stream bed
  • Habitat
  • Short duration grazing

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