Micro-patterns in grassland vegetation created and sustained by sheep-grazing

J.P. Bakker, J. de Leeuw, S.E. van Wieren

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An initially uniform Holcus lanatus-dominated sward came partly under hay-making and partly under sheep-grazing. Preferential grazing by sheep resulted in grazing at different intensities giving rise to a macro-pattern of various plant communities. Besides this macro-pattern a micro-pattern developed in the grazed area, which was absent under hay-making. In the micro-pattern short, heavily grazed areas alternated with taller, lightly grazed patches, both having the same species composition. The heavily grazed area was characterized by equal amounts of monocots and dicots. The lightly grazed patches were dominated by Agrostis tenuis, and had a large amount of litter which probably causes the absence of mosses. The protein percentage of green material is higher in the heavily grazed areas than in the lightly grazed patches.

Sequential charting indicated that the micro-pattern was more or less stable. An interaction between the vegetation micro-pattern and grazing patterns is suggested. Heavy grazing results in forage with a high protein content and hence attracts animals. Light grazing results in forage with a relatively low protein content, animals avoid the area and litter accumulates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-161
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1983


  • ADLIB-ART-1757
  • NRS


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