Trampling, vegetation harvesting, and excrement spreading are the means by which ruminants interact with the ecosystem. Several mechanisms were described for the influence of vegetation harvesting and excrement spreading on the ecosystem, whereas the influence of trampling is poorly understood. The goal of the present study was to determine the influence of trampling by small ruminants on the ecosystem. The study took place in 2018 and 2019 in the north-western Negev. Each plot included a fenced control-enclosure subplot that is protected from grazing; its remaining area was grazed by a controlled sheep flock. The findings indicate that the crumbling of the surface soil and its mixing with the vegetation, caused by trampling, increased litter production six- to nine-fold compared with the control. The plant litter was better composted by two- to seven times, and its lignin and protein contents were increased by 10%. We suggest that the findings indicate the positive influence of trampling by small ruminants in enhancing soil fertility, even under arid climatic conditions and loamy soil. Nevertheless, a further experimental study is needed, in additional experimental sites, in order to work out practical guidelines for the farmers.
- Trampling physical forces
- litter and soil organic matter
- litter and standing herbaceous biomass ratio
- litter nutrient content
- small ruminants grazing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Soil Science