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Black-tailed prairie dogs, cattle, and the conservation of North America's arid grasslands.

Sierra-Corona R, Davidson A, Fredrickson EL, Luna-Soria H, Suzan-Azpiri H, Ponce-Guevara E, Ceballos G - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) have been eliminated from over 95% of their historic range in large part from direct eradication campaigns to reduce their purported competition with cattle for forage.Our experimental results show that cattle preferentially graze along prairie dog colony edges and use their colony centers for resting, resembling the mutualistic relationship prairie dogs have with American bison.Our results also show that prairie dog colonies are not only an important component of the grassland mosaic for maintaining biodiversity, but also provide benefits to cattle, thereby challenging the long-standing view of prairie dogs as an undesirable pest species in grasslands.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico DF, México.

ABSTRACT
Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) have been eliminated from over 95% of their historic range in large part from direct eradication campaigns to reduce their purported competition with cattle for forage. Despite the longstanding importance of this issue to grassland management and conservation, the ecological interactions between cattle and prairie dogs have not been well examined. We address this issue through two complementary experiments to determine if cattle and prairie dogs form a mutualistic grazing association similar to that between prairie dogs and American bison. Our experimental results show that cattle preferentially graze along prairie dog colony edges and use their colony centers for resting, resembling the mutualistic relationship prairie dogs have with American bison. Our results also show that prairie dog colonies are not only an important component of the grassland mosaic for maintaining biodiversity, but also provide benefits to cattle, thereby challenging the long-standing view of prairie dogs as an undesirable pest species in grasslands.

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Spatial pattern of the three classes of cattle activity relative to the vegetation/ground cover types through seasons.Colored dots indicate cattle locations by activity across all weeks during each sample season.
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pone.0118602.g001: Spatial pattern of the three classes of cattle activity relative to the vegetation/ground cover types through seasons.Colored dots indicate cattle locations by activity across all weeks during each sample season.

Mentions: We used a QuickBird satellite image with 0.6 m resolution object-oriented classification (see Laliberte et al. 2007) [50] to develop a vegetation map, enabling us to assess habitats with which cattle most associated. We identified six vegetation types: 1) Annual grassland [which covered 50% of the pasture and was dominated by six weeks three awn (Aristida adscencionis)]; 2) perennial gramma grassland [14% cover, dominated by perennial blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis.)]; 3) tobosa grassland [10% cover, dominated by tobosa, Hilaria mutica]; 4) vine mesquite grassland [8% cover, dominated by vine mesquite, Panicum obtusum]; 5) weedy annual forbs [5% cover; dominated by Russian thistle, Salsola kali & Palmer’s amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri]; and 6) prairie dog colonies [12% cover] (Fig. 1).


Black-tailed prairie dogs, cattle, and the conservation of North America's arid grasslands.

Sierra-Corona R, Davidson A, Fredrickson EL, Luna-Soria H, Suzan-Azpiri H, Ponce-Guevara E, Ceballos G - PLoS ONE (2015)

Spatial pattern of the three classes of cattle activity relative to the vegetation/ground cover types through seasons.Colored dots indicate cattle locations by activity across all weeks during each sample season.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4356543&req=5

pone.0118602.g001: Spatial pattern of the three classes of cattle activity relative to the vegetation/ground cover types through seasons.Colored dots indicate cattle locations by activity across all weeks during each sample season.
Mentions: We used a QuickBird satellite image with 0.6 m resolution object-oriented classification (see Laliberte et al. 2007) [50] to develop a vegetation map, enabling us to assess habitats with which cattle most associated. We identified six vegetation types: 1) Annual grassland [which covered 50% of the pasture and was dominated by six weeks three awn (Aristida adscencionis)]; 2) perennial gramma grassland [14% cover, dominated by perennial blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis.)]; 3) tobosa grassland [10% cover, dominated by tobosa, Hilaria mutica]; 4) vine mesquite grassland [8% cover, dominated by vine mesquite, Panicum obtusum]; 5) weedy annual forbs [5% cover; dominated by Russian thistle, Salsola kali & Palmer’s amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri]; and 6) prairie dog colonies [12% cover] (Fig. 1).

Bottom Line: Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) have been eliminated from over 95% of their historic range in large part from direct eradication campaigns to reduce their purported competition with cattle for forage.Our experimental results show that cattle preferentially graze along prairie dog colony edges and use their colony centers for resting, resembling the mutualistic relationship prairie dogs have with American bison.Our results also show that prairie dog colonies are not only an important component of the grassland mosaic for maintaining biodiversity, but also provide benefits to cattle, thereby challenging the long-standing view of prairie dogs as an undesirable pest species in grasslands.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico DF, México.

ABSTRACT
Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) have been eliminated from over 95% of their historic range in large part from direct eradication campaigns to reduce their purported competition with cattle for forage. Despite the longstanding importance of this issue to grassland management and conservation, the ecological interactions between cattle and prairie dogs have not been well examined. We address this issue through two complementary experiments to determine if cattle and prairie dogs form a mutualistic grazing association similar to that between prairie dogs and American bison. Our experimental results show that cattle preferentially graze along prairie dog colony edges and use their colony centers for resting, resembling the mutualistic relationship prairie dogs have with American bison. Our results also show that prairie dog colonies are not only an important component of the grassland mosaic for maintaining biodiversity, but also provide benefits to cattle, thereby challenging the long-standing view of prairie dogs as an undesirable pest species in grasslands.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus