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Managing Watershed Rangelands

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Range improvement aims at the increased production of forage, meaning plant matter which has a fodder value for livestock. Form the watershed point of view, the increased cover is already a sufficient condition irrespective of partial value.
The key to production increase and ultimately the ground cover, which reduce surface runoff and its associated erosion and increase infiltration, is range mgt. the range mgt based on the determination of the forage production capacity of range resources and the adjustment of animal numbers to forage production. These are two mgt objectives:

  1. Short-term for cover improvement
  2. Long-term for successional improvement of species composition

Before any mgt initiation, the inventory of the rangelands sequence in the following respects.

  1. The degree of soil cover by living and dead plant material
  2. Type of vegetation and its forage value.
  3. Condition and vigor of the cover
  4. The degree of the use of the main forage species.
  5. Erosional status
  6. Hydrological condition esp less by runoff
  7. Present and future trend of the succession of cover.

Based on inventory the following efforts could be made for range improvement.

The stocking of the range has to be adjusted to its carrying capacity:

it means that no of livestock to be depastured (put animals to pasture) and timing and duration of grazing will be set in line with production and yield with the basic aim of sustained range production. From the hydrologic point of view, the minimum requirement is a minimum vegetation cover to hold the soil safely in plan and permit adequate infiltration of rainwater. The cover should be of such a type which consumes the least water by Evapotranspiration.

Livestock load based on forage instead on total production:

As a rule, not more than 60% of the total annual production of good range vegetation should be utilized, the remainder should be left to maintain vigorous growth of the plants, by providing soil protecting litter and cover aid to facilitate regeneration. Maintenance of good range condition and sustained yield.

Temporary reduction of livestock density.

If range degradation is not so severe, the plant cover can be gradually improved by temporary or permanent reduction in livestock density.

Total exclusion of livestock:

in certain cases total exclusion of livestock becomes unavoidable. For this purpose, proper grazing systems may be introduced such as rotational grazing systems, deferred grazing system, deferred rotational grazing system which provides maximum time to the vegetation to produce seed, shed it and establish it to grow.

Uniform distribution of livestock:

Good range mgt aims at uniform distribution of livestock over whole range area, otherwise over and under grazed areas originate. A uniform livestock distribution could be a nut with an adequate number and distribution of watering points and salting points. Because the animals/ livestock concentrate near watering and salting points so the uniform distribution of these points also results in uniform distribution of livestock over whole range area.

Eradication and reseeding:

The forage cover may be improved by eradication of low-value species and reseeding of palatable species.

By mechanical soil conservation:

By the construction of contour bunds, contour trenches, contour plugging, the establishment of water absorption or diversion systems.
In short Range Mgt improvements can be as follows:

Range improvement practices:

  • Development and distribution of watering facilities on the range areas.
  • Salting – providing plenty of salt at proper places uniformly on the range areas.
  • The herding of live-stock to areas not preferred by animals, by the herdsman.
  • Fencing – fencing the large area into a small area and also the seeded areas (because we need to save it in early one month.)
  • Constricting paths and trails to connecting different range areas for livestock movement.
  • Range burning – dense patches of shrubs by vegetation are burned to facilitate livestock movement.
  • Range reseeding
  • Range fertilization
  • Using specified grazing systems.


The above-stated efforts for range mgt indirectly provide a basis for w-shed improvement. However, where increased stream flow is an aim of w-shed mgt, the challenge will be met by following efforts.

Reduction in vegetation cover:

Minimum vegetation cover compellable with erosion control can increase stream flow. This may possibly be achieved by rational grazing of land. Sheep can clip vegetation short i.e. close to the ground which induces to sod-forming species to grow. A cover of this type would afford perfect soil protection while at the same time interception and Evapotranspiration losses are minimal. Results from resources seem to indicate that the possibilities of increasing stream low in range w-shed are rather limited. However, additional stream flow can be expected during dry months.

By introduction of proper grazing systems:

By application of proper grazing system and the introduction of livestock according to range capability, improve the desirable vegetation cover because the minimum cover is usu the result of fairly intensive range use; invasion of shrub spp may be the consequence. This may be undesirable from the point of view of forage production as well as maximum water yield. The shrubs could use more water by interception and transpiration

Replacement of deep-rooted with shallow-rooted spp:

A deep root spp transpire more water than shallow so by replacing deep-rooted spp with shallow one can reduce transpiration.

Replacement of scrub forest by pastures:

By replacement of scrub into pastures reduce interception and transpiration and increase stream flow.
In most range catchment of the arid zone, the prime objective of mgt is erosion control rather than water yield. Normal range improvement techniques applied for fodder production are perfectly compatible with requirements of soil protection.

For correction and improvements please use the comments section below.

Naeem Javid Muhammad Hassani is working as Conservator of Forests in Balochistan Forest & Wildlife Department (BFWD). He is the CEO of Tech Urdu ( Forestrypedia (, All Pak Notifications (, Essayspedia, etc & their YouTube Channels). He is an Environmentalist, Blogger, YouTuber, Developer & Vlogger.

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