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Pasture composition in cleared and uncleared woodlands

Land clearing in Queensland is often practised to enhance pasture production, and hence, increase financial returns from beef production. The benefits of clearing have been quantified in terms of short-term gains in pasture yield but have not adequately accounted for possible medium- or longer-term impediments that may be attributed to clearing. Therefore, impacts of clearing and the subsequent sowing of exotic grasses such as Cenchrus ciliaris L. on pasture composition and production were studied. To achieve this, paired sites were selected representing cleared and uncleared pastures across three different times since clearing (i.e. 5, 11–13 and 33 years since clearing) for the three dominant tree communities of central Queensland (i.e. Eucalyptus populnea F.Muell. (poplar box), E. melanophloia F.Muell. (silver-leaved ironbark) and Acacia harpophylla F.Muell. ex. Benth. (brigalow)). The results demonstrated that species diversity declined with clearing and sowing of exotic pastures. Species diversity and pasture production were negatively related. Although pasture yield was 2–3 times greater 13 years after clearing of E. populnea and A. harpohylla, the gains in pasture yield were not consistent over time, yields being only 1.5 times greater after 33 years of clearing. In E. melanophloia, an increase in the yield of only 1.5–1.8 times occurred 5 years after clearing compared with uncleared pastures, whereas 33 years after clearing, yield was 3/4 of that in uncleared pastures. The initial gains in pasture yield were accompanied by a loss of plant diversity that may affect ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling or soil mineralisation, and the longer-term production gains.

Funding

Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)

History

Volume

54

Issue

5

Start Page

459

End Page

470

Number of Pages

12

ISSN

0067-1924

Location

Collingwood, Vic

Publisher

CSIRO Publishing

Language

en-aus

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

Centre for Environmental Management; Primary Industries Research Centre; TBA Research Institute;

Era Eligible

  • Yes

Journal

Australian journal of botany.