This study compared continuous grazing (CG) to an innovative rotational grazing system (the biodiversity-friendly rotation – BR), where a subplot was excluded from grazing for two months during the main flowering period. The effects of grazing two different species (cattle and sheep) within both systems were also evaluated.
Grazing management is an important tool to preserve insect biodiversity. Although literature has discussed the importance of grazing pressure adjustment to support grassland insect communities for the ecosystem services they provide, little has been published on the economic sustainability of such management adjustments to date.
The aims were to assess the effects on butterfly, bumblebee, and ground beetle assemblages, along with the impact on herbage mass and animal performance. The BR enhanced both the abundance and species richness of flower-visiting insect assemblages and it was observed that cattle provided better results than sheep grazing.
A multivariate redundancy analysis highlighted that most of the flower-visiting species (including almost all the endangered and locally rare species) were favoured by BR-cattle treatment, mainly due to the high percentage of flower cover and sward heterogeneity involved in this treatment.
However, grazing system and grazer species did not affect ground beetle species richness or abundance. Moreover, herbage mass and animal performance (live weight and body condition score) were comparable between CG and BR throughout the grazing season.
The BR could be a useful management system to enhance grassland flower-visiting insect assemblages whilst meeting farm production objectives, especially in protected environments where insect conservation is a major target.
Reference: Simone Ravetto Enri, Massimiliano Probo, Anne Farruggia, Laurent Lanore, André Blanchetete, Bertrand Dumont, "A biodiversity-friendly rotational grazing system enhancing flower-visiting insect assemblages while maintaining animal and grassland productivity," Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 241, 1 April 2017, Pages 1–10, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.02.030
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