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Habitat use and behaviour of cattle in a heterogeneous desert environment in central Australia


Frank, ASK and Dickman, CR and Wardle, GM, Habitat use and behaviour of cattle in a heterogeneous desert environment in central Australia, Rangeland Journal, (34) pp. 319-328. ISSN 1036-9872 (2012) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Australian Rangeland Society

DOI: doi:10.1071/RJ12032


The activities of livestock in arid environments typically centre on watering points, with grazing impacts often predicted to decrease uniformly, as radial piospheres, with distance from water. In patchy desert environments, however, the spatial distribution of grazing impacts is more difficult to predict. In this study sightings and dung transects are used to identify preferred cattle habitats in the heterogeneous dune system of the Simpson Desert, central Australia. The importance of watering points as foci for cattle activity was confirmed and it was shown that patchily distributed gidgee woodland, which comprises only 16% of the desert environment, is the most heavily used habitat for cattle away from water and provides critical forage and shade resources. By contrast, dune swales and sides, which are dominated by shade- and forage-deficient spinifex grassland and comprise >70% of the available habitat, were less utilised. These results suggest that habitat use by cattle is influenced jointly by water point location and by the dispersion of woodland patches in a resource-poor matrix. The findings were used to build a modified conceptual model of cattle habitat use which was compared with an original piosphere model, and the consequences for wildlife in environments where the model applies are discussed.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Frank, ASK (Dr Anke Frank)
ID Code:80231
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:17
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2012-10-24
Last Modified:2013-03-19

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