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Bison and cattle grazing management, bare ground coverage, and links to suspended sediment concentrations in grassland streams

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Grudzinski, B.P., M.D. Daniels, K. Anibas, and D. Spencer. 2016. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 52(1):16–30.

doi: 10.1111/1752-1688.12364

Abstract

This study quantified the impact of bison and cattle grazing management practices on bare ground coverage at the watershed, riparian, and forested riparian scales within the Flint Hills ecoregion in Kansas. We tested for correlations between bare ground coverage and fluvial suspended sediment concentrations during base-flow and storm-flow events. We used remotely sensed imagery combined with field surveys to classify ground cover and quantify the presence of bare ground. Base-flow water samples were collected bi-monthly during rain-free periods and 24 h following precipitation events. Storm-flow water samples were collected on the rising limb of the hydrograph, using single-stage automatic samplers. Ungrazed treatments contained the lowest coverage of bare ground at the watershed, riparian, and forested riparian scales. Bison treatments contained the highest coverage of bare ground at the watershed scale, while high-density cattle treatments contained the highest coverage of bare ground at the riparian and forested riparian scales. In bison and cattle-grazed treatments, a majority of bare ground was located near fence lines, watershed boundaries, and third- and fourth-order stream segments. Inorganic sediment concentrations at base flow were best predicted by riparian bare ground coverage, while storm-flow sediment concentrations were best predicted by watershed scale bare ground coverage.

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