Variations in soil properties, species composition, diversity and biomass of herbaceous species due to ruminant dung residue in a seasonally dry tropical environment of India

Preeti Verma, R. Sagar, Nitu Giri, Ranjana Patel, Hariom Verma, D.K. Singh, Kuldeep Kumar


Ruminants directly or indirectly influence nutrient cycling and vegetation structure in grassland ecosystems. We assessed the impact of natural cattle dung deposition on soil attributes and the resulting effects on species composition, species diversity and biomass of herbaceous vegetation in a natural grassland in the seasonally dry tropical environment of Banaras Hindu University, India. For this 72 plots of 1 × 1 m [12 locations × 2 treatments (dung residue and control) × 3 replicates] were selected in January 2013 and soil and vegetation samples collected. A total of 74 species belonging to 66 genera and 25 families were recorded. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) ordination revealed that the dung residue (DP) and control (CP) plots were distinctly different in terms of soil attributes and species composition. The k-dominance plot showed greater species diversity in DPs than CPs, with higher soil nutrients and moisture and lower soil pH in DPs than CPs. Similarly, DPs showed more herbaceous species and greater biomass than CPs. This trend can be explained by the positive responses of forbs, erect plants, annuals, large-statured, non-native and non-leguminous species to dung residue, while increased biomass can be partly due to cattle preferentially not grazing areas adjacent to a dung pat. Overall, the study showed that deposition of dung during grazing by cattle stimulates growth of pasture species and increases species diversity. Therefore cattle dung could be used as a sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizers to manage soil pH, species composition and diversity, and forage production in the seasonally dry tropical grasslands of India, which are nutrient- and moisture-limited.

Keywords: Animal manure, herbaceous vegetation, plant functional attributes, soil pH, species change.

DOI: 10.17138/TGFT(3)112-128


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