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Grazing in temporary paddocks with hardy breed horses (Konik polski) improved species-rich grasslands restoration in artificial embankments of the Rhône river (Southern France)

Abstract : Extensive horse grazing with hardy breeds is largely used in conservation management for restoring species-rich semi-natural grasslands in Europe. As an example, the Donzère-Mondragon Rhône river embankments (south-eastern France) where horse grazing with Konik polski succeeded to maintain high species richness in patches of open and short grassland, but failed for patches of tall grassland dominated by the grass tussock species Brachypodium phoenicoides. In response, an increase of herd density by the creation of temporary paddocks was applied in tall grassland patches. Grazing pressure over time between patches was estimated via GPS fixed to mares, biomass, plant species richness measurements and from multispectral photographs, the normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was calculated. Finally, telemetric data were collected. We wondered if the use of extensive horse grazing with temporary paddocks occupation, increase plant species richness. After three years, our results show that the increase in stocking rate enabled a significant increase of plant species richness in the tall grassland patches, with a significant decline of B. phoenicoides in all paddocks. The NDVI was strongly correlated with herbaceous biomass and plant species richness, while the number of GPS points indicating the position of the mares was higher in areas where the NDVI was high. These results are discussed for improving horse grazing conservation systems efficiency on grasslands established in anthropized sites such as embankments and the use of the NDVI as an appropriate tool to help decision-making for large-scale applications.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03380246
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Submitted on : Friday, October 15, 2021 - 1:35:12 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 8:40:43 AM

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Cannelle Moinardeau, François Mesleard, Hervé Ramone, Thierry Dutoit. Grazing in temporary paddocks with hardy breed horses (Konik polski) improved species-rich grasslands restoration in artificial embankments of the Rhône river (Southern France). Global Ecology and Conservation, Elsevier, inPress, ⟨10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01874⟩. ⟨hal-03380246⟩

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