A grassland forage supply assessment in Southeast British Columbia with comparisons to current Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) and range cattle (Bos taurus) grazing pressure and analysis of productivity distinctions
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Subjectforage supply; Rocky Mountain elk; range cattle; grazing pressure; grassland productivity; range management; ecology; foresty and wildlife
Open grassland productivity was measured within adjacent East Kootenay range units to evaluate forage availability and calculate elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) and cattle (Bos taurus) sustainable carrying capacity targets. This research extends rangeland monitoring with an analysis of site differentiation and comparative grazing pressure to 2008 population estimates. Significant productivity differences were found between grass and shrubs for range units (p=0.024 and p<0.0001) and different biogeoclimatic zones (p=0.042 and p<0.0001). Notable grazing pressure distinctions occurred: cattle exceeded the Rampart Mayook carrying capacity, elk exceeded the Pickering Hills carrying capacity, and both species had sustainable populations within the Power Plant range unit. These results provide clear direction for stock management and offer valuable rangeland insight. Furthermore, the study introduces cover-percentage productivity estimation (CPPE), a simple grassland productivity assessment method. Pearson correlation coefficients were significant and high between productivity results and cover estimates, indicating that CPPE will be a useful field tool.
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