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Soil organic carbon and nitrogen reduction through cattle-path induced erosion in montane grasslands, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Title data

Abdalla, Khatab ; Van Wyk, Ashleigh ; Benitez-Nelson, Claudia ; Hill, Trever:
Soil organic carbon and nitrogen reduction through cattle-path induced erosion in montane grasslands, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
In: Catena. Vol. 236 (2024) . - 107741.
ISSN 0341-8162

Official URL: Volltext

Abstract in another language

The impact of daily cattle migration from homesteads to higher altitude pastures creates severe erosion in the montane grasslands of the predominantly subsistence agricultural rural communities of KwaZulu-Natal, Drakensberg, South Africa. This study quantifies the impact of a degraded cattle path at up, mid and downslope positions on SOC and N distribution in the soil profile and within the soil aggregates. An attempt to evaluate sites of erosion and deposition using excess lead-210 (210Pbex) to support our findings was conducted. On average, the degraded cattle path reduced SOC and N in the bulk soil (by 3–4 times, respectively) and was associated with 53% reduction in aggregate stability and a 14% increase in soil bulk density over the non-degraded reference site. These results reflect the loss of vegetation cover (correlated positively to SOC and N (r ≈ 0.94)), which were triggered by cattle grazing and trampling leading to top-soil loss. Cattle hoofs damage the grass and breakdown soil aggregates, exposing the fertile topsoil particles to detachment and consequential transportation via rill and sheet erosion. This is supported by the loss of 210Pbex in the topsoil of the degraded slope positions relative to the reference site. Consistent down core mixing of 210Pbex activity in degraded slope sites supports evidence of cattle mediated soil mixing. Our findings highlight the accelerated land degradation that results from uncontrolled grazing and movement of cattle on sloping lands in the Okhombe Valley. Developing an integrated management strategy co-led by local communities to develop proactive participatory sustainable land use practices is critical for long-term landscape maintenance and recovery in the region.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Aggregate stability; Fallout radionuclides; Grassland degradation; Grazing: climate change
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Professor Agroecology
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 500 Science > 500 Natural sciences
500 Science > 570 Life sciences, biology
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2024 06:19
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2024 06:19