Forage consecuences of the continued reduction of stocking rate in subalpine grasslands: the case of Festuca eskia grasslands
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From the mid-20th Century abandonment of rangelands is the biggest threat in the European high mountain. Although this grassland has been used as means of grazing for many centuries, there are no natural communities in stricto sensu; communities are semi natural with a good stability. The value of this grassland is exceptional (biodiversity reservoirs, chipper production with good nutritional qualities, protective from erosion, suitable for amenities, etc.). However, such values can only be maintained by keeping the farming activity. In this work we present continuous measurements during five years of the effect of Festuca eskia in grasslands from the Aigüestortes National Park in the Spanish Pyrenees, where the seasonal stocking rate was decreasing (from 0.72 to 0.18 LU·ha-1·year-1). Results show an increase in species richness (S, 13.4 vs. 18.2), biodiversity index (Shannon, 1.99 vs. 2.13) and non-legume forbs (7.1 vs. 11.4) when stocking rate was diminishing. Forage quality (measured through the pastoral value method, the content in crude protein, fat and phosphorus in the dry matter production) diminished in the same period.