The effect of cattle grazing on the abundance and distribution of selected macroinvertebrates in west Galveston Island salt marshes
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The effect of cattle grazing on the abundance and distribution of vegetation, burrowing crabs (Uca rapax, Uca pugnax, and Sesarma cinereum), marsh periwinkles (Littoraria irrorata), horn snails (Cerithidea pliculosa), and salt marsh snails (Melampus bidentatus) was evaluated over four seasons (summer 2000, fall 2000, winter 2001, and spring 2001) in grazed and ungrazed treatments. A Galveston Island salt marsh adjacent to Snake Island Cove was sampled at five elevations, from the water's edge to the high tidal flats. Data were analyzed for statistical differences using a two-way ANOVA in SAS. Cattle grazing may affect the vegetation and macroinvertebrate communities in salt marshes through trampling and herbivory. Vegetation resources available to other herbivores are decreased by the direct consumption of plant material by cattle. Spartina alterniflora and Salicornia virginica heights were significantly greater in ungrazed treatments than grazed for every season in the edge, upper, and middle elevation zones. Total aerial vegetative cover was also reduced significantly in grazed treatments, with the greatest impact in the edge and upper marsh. In the ungrazed treatments, S. alterniflora stem density was significantly greater in edge elevations, while both S. virginica percent cover and stem density in the edge elevation was greater. Burrowing crab populations were greater in the upper marsh and edge habitat of ungrazed treatments, while significantly greater in most of the middle marsh habitats of the grazed treatment. Size of burrowing crabs was generally significantly greater in ungrazed treatments. Cerithidea pliculosa size decreased in grazed treatments, but population had an overall increase in grazed treatments. Littoraria irrorata had very few differences between treatments, although few specimens were found. Melampus bidentatus populations were too small to evaluate thoroughly. Macroinvertebrate populations could be used to assess the overall health of grazed salt marshes.
salt marsh snail
Martin, Jennifer Lynn (2003). The effect of cattle grazing on the abundance and distribution of selected macroinvertebrates in west Galveston Island salt marshes. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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