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Wild horse and cattle use of Nevada spring meadows: Hydrologic gradients drive vegetation response
AuthorBurdick, Jacob M.
AdvisorSwanson, Sherman R.
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Nevada spring meadows are less water limited than the surrounding cold desert ecosystem. Abundant water supports stabilizing wetland plants that capture sediment, reduce overland flow energy, and prevent erosion. Enhanced forage and available water also attract grazing animals that can degrade riparian vegetation through prolonged overuse. We recorded ungulate use at 12 Nevada spring meadows in overlapping public land grazing allotments and wild horse territories (Forest Service) herd management areas (Bureau of Land Management). Wild horses used study sites most intensely followed closely by cattle. Native ungulate use was negligible. Higher intensity of use resulted in more hoof print alterations and greater bare ground along the wettest parts of perennial spring sites where monitoring was most informative. We noticed significant vegetation degradation due to inadequate rest and recovery time between grazing events.