Does cattle and sheep grazing under best management significantly elevate sediment losses? Evidence from the North Wyke Farm Platform, UK
Keywords: 
Sediment yield
Grazing livestock
Soil damage
Livestock management
Stocking rate
Issue Date: 
2021
ISSN: 
1439-0108
Citation: 
Pulley, S.; Cardenas, L.; Grau-Gumbau, P. (Paloma); et al. "Does cattle and sheep grazing under best management significantly elevate sediment losses? Evidence from the North Wyke Farm Platform, UK". Journal of Soils and Sediments. 21 (4), 2021, 1875 - 1889
Abstract
Purpose Intensive livestock grazing has been associated with an increased risk of soil erosion and concomitant negative impacts on the ecological status of watercourses. Whilst various mitigation options are promoted for reducing livestock impacts, there is a paucity of data on the relationship between stocking rates and quantified sediment losses. This evidence gap means there is uncertainty regarding the cost-benefit of policy preferred best management. Methods Sediment yields from 15 hydrologically isolated field scale catchments on a heavily instrumented ruminant livestock farm in the south west UK were investigated over similar to 26 months spread across 6 years. Sediment yields were compared to cattle and sheep stocking rates on long-term, winter (November-April), and monthly timescales. The impacts of livestock on soil vegetation cover and bulk density were also examined. Cattle were tracked using GPS collars to determine how grazing related to soil damage. Results No observable impact of livestock stocking rates of 0.15-1.00 UK livestock units (LU) ha(-1) for sheep, and 0-0.77 LU ha(-1) for cattle on sediment yields was observed at any of the three timescales. Cattle preferentially spent time close to specific fences where soils were visually damaged. However, there was no indication that livestock have a significant effect on soil bulk density on a field scale.

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