Impact of rangeland enclosure and seasonal grazing on protected and unprotected rangelands in Chakwal region, Pakistan
Scrub rangelands support livestock grazing and provide ecosystem services to their inhabitants. The present study was conducted in Chakwal, an important tract of the Pothwar Plateau, which sustains herds of small domestic and nomadic ruminants. Urbanization and uncontrolled grazing practices have reduced rangeland productivity and increased soil erosion and resulted in poor land conditions. This study assessed the influence of two years of rangeland protection on aboveground vegetation biomass and the chemical composition of plants and aimed to determine the influence of seasonal grazing on the live-weight gain of small ewes. Using the line intercept method, vegetation data from protected and unprotected plots in 2015 and 2016 were collected at two sites, Dhulli and Begal. Vegetation cover was assessed from images using VegMeasure. Results showed that protected study sites displayed higher vegetation biomass (834 and 690 kg ha-1) compared to the unprotected study site (477 and 326 kg ha-1) during April and August of both years. In the seasonal grazing trial, the experimental ewes that grazed on protected rangelands showed higher live-weight gain (33–63 g day-1) compared to live weight of ewes (17–21 g day-1) that grazed on unprotected rangelands during the experimental period of 127 days at both sites. The results suggest that the Chakwal rangeland has tremendous potential to improve vegetation productivity but modern livestock management and seasonal grazing practices are needed to improve carrying capacity and livestock productivity.