Effects of abandoning long-term goat grazing on species composition and species richness of pastures at La Gomera, Canary Islands

  • J. R. Arevalo Facultad de Biología. Universidad de La Laguna
  • L. de Nascimento Facultad de Biología. Universidad de La Laguna
  • S. Fernandez-Lugo Facultad de Biología. Universidad de La Laguna
  • I. Saro Facultad de Biología. Universidad de La Laguna
  • A. Camacho Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agraria. Universidad de La Laguna
  • J. Mata Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agraria. Universidad de La Laguna
  • L. Bermejo Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agraria. Universidad de La Laguna
Keywords: detrended correspondence analysis, plant community, rarefaction, sustainability


Goat grazing management is a powerful ecological force structuring plant communities which effects are highly different depending on factors such as climatic conditions, grazing intensity, type of plant community, etc. Pastures in the Canary Islands have important heritage, socioeconomic and landscape values because they are the remains of traditional livestock management and a key element of local economy. An experimental study of goat grazing exclusion has been carried out in an area of La Gomera Island to determine the main effects of grazing abandonment on species richness and species composition. The species composition of La Gomera pastures is more sensitive to grazing than to climatic variability, though effects in the species richness in relation to grazing were not detected. Because the pasture origin in this area involved artificial, removing of non useful plants in order to provide land for agriculture more than 300 years ago, and using it for pastures around 80 years ago, the sustainable use has maintained this rich plant community. Grazing abandonment can have a negative effect on the pastures’ diversity, as grazing has been a strong force in the maintenance of certain species. Public promotion of this primary activity is suggested to allow the continuation with minimal effects on the vegetation composition. This will help to conserve the high diversity of this area and the promotion of natural values as well as traditional and sustainable human activities.


Download data is not yet available.


Arévalo J.R., Delgado J.D., Otto R., Naranjo A., Salas M., Fernández-Palacios J.M., 2005. Distribution of alien vs. native plant species in roadside communities along an altitudinal gradient in Tenerife and Gran Canaria (Canary Islands). Perspect Plant Ecol 7, 185-202. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2005.09.003

Arévalo J.R., Chinea E., Barquín E., 2007. Pasture management under goat grazing on Canary Islands. Agr Ecosyst Environ 128, 291-296. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2006.05.029

Bakker E.S., Olff H., Boekhoff M., Gleichman J.M., Berendse F., 2004. Impact of herbivores on nitrogen cycling: contrasting effects of small and large species. Oecologia 138, 91-101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-003-1402-5 PMid:14566555

Baldock D., Beaufoy G., Clark J., 1994. The nature of farming-low intensity farming systems in nine European countries. Institute for Environmental Policy, London, UK. 66 pp. PMCid:1295009

Bermejo L.A., 2003. Conservación de los recursos genéticos caprinos en los espacios protegidos de Canarias: impacto social y ambiental. Doctoral thesis. Universidad de Córdoba, Córdoba. Spain. [In Spanish].

Bullock J.M., Franklin J., Stevenson M.J., Sivlertowin J., Coulson S.J., Gregory S.J., Tofts R., 2001. A plan trait analysis of responses to grazing in a long-term experiment. J Appl Ecol 38, 253-267. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2001.00599.x

Casado M.A., Castro I., Ramírez-Sanz L., Costatenorio M., De Miguel J.M., Pineda F.D., 2004. Herbaceous plant richness and vegetation cover in Mediterranean grasslands and shrublands. Plant Ecol 170, 83-91. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:VEGE.0000019021.62054.62

Cingolani A.M., Noy-Meir I., Díaz S., 2005. Grazing effects on rangeland diversity: a synthesis of contemporary models. Ecol Appl 15, 757-773. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/03-5272

Crawley M.J., 1997. Plant-herbivore dynamics. In: Plant ecology (Crawley M.J., ed). Blackwell Sci Oxford, UK. pp. 401-474.

Daget P.H., Poissonet J., 1971. Une méthode d'analyse phytologique des prairies, criteres d'application. Annales Agronomiques 22, 5-41. [In French].

De-Bello F., 2006. Consecuencias de los cambios de presión ganadera sobre la estructura de la vegetación a lo largo de gradientes climáticos. Ecosistemas 15, 106-112. [In Spanish].

De-Bello F., Lepš J., Sebastià M.T., 2007. Grazing effects on species-area relationship: variation along a climatic gradient in NE Spain. J Veg Sci 18, 25-34.

Del-Arco M.J., Wildpret W., Pérez De Paz P.L., Rodríguez O., Acebes J.R., García A., Martín V.E., Reyes J.A., Salas M., Díaz M.A., Bermejo, J.A., González R., Cabrera M.V., García S., 2006. Mapa de vegetación de Canarias. GRAFCAN, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain.

Del-Pozo A., Ovalle C., Casado M.A., Acosta B., De Miguel J.M., 2006. Effects of grazing intensity in grasslands of the Espinal of central Chile. J Veg Sci 6,791-798.

Espigares T., Peco P., 1995. Mediterranean annual pasture dynamics: impact of autumn drought. J Ecol 83, 135-142. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2261157

Fernández-Lugo S., De Nascimento L., Mellado M., Bermejo L.A., Arévalo J.R., 2009. Vegetation change and chemical soil composition after four years of goat grazing exclusion in a Canary Islands pasture. Agr Ecosyst Environ 132, 276-282 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2009.04.011

Fernández-Palacios J.M., De-Nicolas J.P., 1995. Altitudinal pattern of vegetation variation on Tenerife. J Veg Sci 6, 183-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3236213

Figueroa M.D., Davy J.A., 1991. Response of Mediterranean grassland species to changing rainfall. J Ecol 79, 925-941. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2261089

García Dory M.A., Martínez S., 1988. La ganadería en España. ¿Desarrollo integrado o dependencia? Alianza Editorial, Madrid, Spain. [In Spanish].

Gauch H.G., 1982. Multivariate analysis in community ecology. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, UK. 298 pp. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511623332

González M.N., Rodrigo J.D., Suárez C., 1986. Flora y vegetación del archipiélago canario. Edirca SL, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. 335 pp. [In Spanish].

Heck K.L., Van Belle G., Simberloff D., 1975. Explicit calculation of the rarefaction diversity measurement and the determination of sufficient sample size. Ecology 56, 1459-1461. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1934716

Hill M.O., Gauch H.G., 1980. Detrended correspondence analysis, an improved ordination technique. Vegetatio 42, 47-58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00048870

Hubbard J.C.E., Wilson J.B., 1988. A survey of the lowland vegetation of the Upper Clutha District of Otago, New Zealand. New Zeal J Bot 26, 21-35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0028825X.1988.10410097

Hurlbert S.H., 1971. The nonconcept of species diversity: a critique and alternative parameters. Ecology 52, 577-586. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1934145

Huston M.A., 1994. Biological diversity: the coexistence of species on changing landscapes. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, UK. 681 pp.

Izquierdo I., Martín J.L., Zurita N., Arechavaleta M., 2004. Checklist of Canarian wild species (fungi, plants, and animals). Consejería de Política Territorial y Medio Ambiente de Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. 499 pp.

Jongman R.H.G., Ter Braak C.J.F., Van Tongeren O.F.R., 1987. Data analysis in community landscape ecology. Pudoc, Wageningen, The Netherlands. 299 pp.

Legendre P., Legendre P., 1998. Numerical Ecology, 2nd English Ed. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 853 pp.

Marrero A., Capote J., 2001. La agricultura. In: Naturaleza de las Islas Canarias. Ecología y conservación (Fernández-Palacios J.M., Martín J.L. eds). Publicaciones Turquesa SL, Spain. pp. 263-268. [In Spanish].

Marzol V., 2000. El clima. In: Gran atlas temático de Canarias (Morales G., Pérez R. eds). Editorial Insular Canaria, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. pp. 87-106. [In Spanish].

Mata J., Bermejo L.A., Delgado J.V., Camacho A., Flores M.P., 2000. Estudio del uso ganadero en espacios protegidos de Canarias-Metodología. Archivos de Zootecnia 49, 185- 186. [In Spanish].

Mcintosh P.D., ALLEN R.B., SCOTT N., 1997. Effects of exclosure management on biomass and soil nutrient pools in seasonally dry high country, New Zealand. J Environ Manage 52, 169-186. http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/jema.1997.0143

Milchunas D.G., Lauenroth W.K., 1993. Quantitative effects of grazing on vegetation and soil over a global range of environments. Ecol Monog 63, 327-366. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2937150

Milchunas D.G., Sala O.E., Lauenroth W.K., 1988. A generalized model of the effects of grazing by large herbivores on grasslands community structure. Am Nat 132, 87-106. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/284839

Olff H., Ritchie M.E., 1998. Effects of herbivores on grassland plant diversity. Trends Ecol Evol 13, 261-265. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0169-5347(98)01364-0

Osem Y., Perevolotsky A., Kigel J., 2002. Grazing effect on diversity of annual plant communities in a semiarid rangeland. Interactions with small-scale spatial and temporal variation in primary productivity. J Ecol 90, 936-946. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2745.2002.00730.x

Peco B., Sánchez A.M., Azcárate F.M., 2006. Abandonment in grazing systems: consequences for vegetation and soil. Agr Ecosyst Environ 113, 284-294. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2005.09.017

Perevolotsky A., Seligman N.G., 1998. Role of grazing in Mediterranean rangeland ecosystems. Inversion of a paradigm. Bioscience 48, 1007-1017. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1313457

Rodríguez A., Mora J.L., 2000. El suelo. In: Gran atlas temático de Canarias (Morales G., Pérez R. eds). Ed Interinsular Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. pp. 107-120. [In Spanish].

SPSS, 1997. SPSS Base 7.5 Applications Guide / SPSS Inc. Chicago, IL. 1038 pp.

Ter-Braak C.J.F., Šmilauer P., 1998. CANOCO reference manual and user's guide to Canoco for Windows: Software for canonical community ordination (vers. 4). Microcomputer Power, Ithaca, NY. 352 pp.

Villalba E., Santana A., 2000. Genésis y evolución geológica. In: Gran atlas temático de Canarias (Morales G., Pérez R., eds). Ed Interinsular Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. pp. 107-120. [In Spanish]. ZAR J.H., 1984. Biostatistical analysis, 2nd ed. Prentice-Hall Inc, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. 736 pp.

How to Cite
Arevalo, J. R., de Nascimento, L., Fernandez-Lugo, S., Saro, I., Camacho, A., Mata, J., & Bermejo, L. (1). Effects of abandoning long-term goat grazing on species composition and species richness of pastures at La Gomera, Canary Islands. Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research, 9(1), 113-123. https://doi.org/10.5424/sjar/20110901-076-10
Agricultural environment and ecology