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Range Management

The first principles of scientific range management were established by research in North America during the 1890s, and by grazing system experiments in the early 1900s. Variations of many of these practices, such as grazing rotations, had been used by pastoral herders in Asia and Africa for centuries.

Grasses of the semi-arid plains provide an excellent winter forage for livestock. Unlike their eastern counterparts, which tend to fall to the ground in winter and rot, prairie grasses cure while standing and do not have to be harvested, baled, or stored for winter use. However, if they are grazed intensively throughout the summer and autumn, prairie grasses cannot produce an adequate crop of winter forage.

Good rangeland management recognizes that perennial grasses must have sufficient time for their aboveground biomass to regenerate after grazing; otherwise the plants become overgrazed, and may not survive. A healthy population of native grasses helps to prevent invasion by non-native plants, some of which are unpalatable or even poisonous to livestock. Severe overgrazing removes too many plants of all types from an area, causing a loss of soil moisture and fertility, and increasing erosion. Range managers have learned that for the long-term health of rangelands, they cannot overstock or overgraze them with cattle or other livestock. In spite of this knowledge, excessive use of rangelands remains an important problem in most parts of the world, including North America.



Hodgson, J., and A.W. Illius., eds. The Ecology and Management of Grazing Systems. CABI Publications, 1998.

Staub, Frank. America's Prairies. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1994.


Holechek, Jerry L. "Policy Changes on Federal Rangelands: A Perspective." Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (May-June 1993): 166-74.


National Research Council. Rangeland Health: New Methods to Classify, Inventory, and Monitor Rangelands. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1994.

Karen Marshall


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Climax community

—A community of plants and animals that persists in the presence of stable, ambient conditions, particularly climate.


—Vegetation that is suitable for grazing animals.


—A perennial, herbaceous, broad-leafed (or dicotyledonous) plant.


—A type of rangeland that is usually free of shrubs and trees. Grasslands most commonly occur on flat, inland areas at lower elevations.


—Rangeland that is dominated by introduced species of forage plants, and that requires periodic cultivation for maintenance.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Quantum electronics to ReasoningRangeland - Types Of Rangeland, Range Management