Effect of livestock grazing on plant cover and species diversity in desert rangelands: A case study of Musawar Al Ottoria in Qatar
Ouled Belgacem, Azaiez
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Protection of designated areas within rangelands is widely considered to be the most effective and the practical way to conserve plant diversity and maintain ecosystem composition and structure. Thus, the effect of protection (two levels of grazing) at two sites in a rangeland was monitored: inside Musawar (enclosure), where the protection level is high, and an open area (outside the Musawar) where human and livestock had unrestricted access to ecosystem resources. Total plant cover, plant density, perennial species cover and their contribution were determined inside and outside the Musawar. The findings revealed considerable positive effects of protection on the scored parameters. However, the results emphasized a negative effect of the long term protection on vegetation dynamics. This was observed by the abundance of a very competitive annual species (Stipa capensis) and the occurrence of crusts on the soil surface (which may constitute an obstacle to water infiltration and seeds germination) inside Al Musawar. Short term protection followed by light grazing was found more sustainable than long term protection of some degraded rangelands in Qatar.