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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Supporting evidence varies for rangeland management practices that seek to improve soil properties and forage production in California

  • Author(s): Carey, Chelsea J;
  • Gravuer, Kelly;
  • Gennet, Sasha;
  • Osleger, Dillon;
  • Wood, Stephen A
  • et al.

California is increasingly investing in policies and programs that promote soil stewardship on natural and working lands as a way to help achieve multiple goals, including improved forage production and climate change mitigation. To inform the growing expectations for rangeland management activities to promote such services, we conducted an evidence synthesis assessing how four commonly suggested practices (silvopasture, prescribed grazing, compost application and riparian restoration) affect a suite of soil properties and plant-related metrics throughout the state. We extracted data on soil properties that are potentially responsive to management and relevant to soil health. We also extracted data on aboveground forage production, forage nitrogen content and herbaceous species richness. Our search resulted in 399 individual soil observations and 64 individual plant observations. We found that the presence of oaks had the largest effects on soil properties, with soil organic carbon, microbial biomass and other measures of soil fertility increasing beneath oak canopies. The presence of grazing increased compaction and total nitrogen, and decreased pH. Compost applications did not significantly affect any of the measured soil properties, but did boost forage production. Due to a lack of published data, we were unable to characterize the influence of rangeland riparian restoration on any of the soil or plant metrics in our review.

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