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Effects of Grazing Animals on Soil biology

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Effect of Grazing Animals on Soil Biology
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Effect of Grazing Animals on Soil Biology
The endeavor of soil biologists is to improve upon the biological functions of soil for the sustenance of various ecosystems. The procedures include stabilizing the soil structure, effective nutrient cycling and degradation and detoxification of toxicants. Such processes occur naturally, by the interactions between various abiotic and biotic communities. Various studies have indicated that improper soil management practices impact biological function of soils (Wardle, 2002). They can enhance or degrade the microbial habitat which produced mutualism between each other. Such practices may add or remove food and nutrient supply and, therefore, lead to a loss of biological community. Finally, soil management may kill essential microorganisms which overall impacts the quality of soil. Most of the times, a particular interventional strategy is used to address one issue of soil quality. However, due to such interventions, a specific community/or communities might get affected and may become lost from that habitat. Loss of species will reduce the biodiversity of a habitat and lead to destabilization of the soil ecosystem. One such impact on soil biology is the issue of grazing animals (Gliessman, 1998).
Each ecosystem is stabilized by a producer-consumer ratio. If the biomass of producers is very high or if the biomass of consumers is very high it will lead to destabilization of the soil ecosystem.

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The flow of energy in an ecosystem is called a food web, and appropriate energy flow through an ecosystem is very vital. Grazing animals are those that feed on grass and small plants in a forest or land ecosystem. An increase in the number of grazing animals would lead to a loss of soil fertility. This is because grazing animals often feed on legumes. The legumes harbor important bacteria called Rhizobium in their roots. This group of bacteria can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, which leads to nitrification and increase in soil fertility (Wardle, 2002).
Grazing animals also cause deforestation and disturbs the balance of food chain. Excess grazing causes loss of various plants, which leads to decreased water-holding capacity of the soil. The loss of plants and trees also impacts the gross primary production. As green plants and trees utilize chlorophyll and sunlight to initiate the flow of energy in an ecosystem, a loss of such plants may lead to decreased efficiency of the ecosystem. Grazing animals can also increase the bulk of detritus organisms. When these animals die, various microorganisms feed and multiply on them. Such growth of microorganisms may be toxic to the qualitative aspects of soil. Moreover, the organic matter in the soil is highly stabilized. Grazers in a soil ecosystem can be the microorganisms itself. Protozoa, mites and nematodes graze (feed) on bacteria and protozoa. These grazers release various nutrients which are beneficial to the plants. These plants get these nutrients when such grazers feed on the microorganisms (Wardle, 2002).
From the above discussion, it is clearly evident that a proper balance of microorganisms and macro-organisms are essential in maintaining the quality of the soil. Soil management practices should not disturb the ecological balance of the soil. Therefore, effective management strategies are required to ensure that effects like mutualism or commensalism are nit hampered. Further, soil biologists should see that the intraspecific and interspecific competition does not erode the food chain efficiency. Such issues may also lead to decreased soil quality and erode the sustenance of a stable ecosystem (Chapin, 2002).
Chapin, F.S.III; P.A. Matson, H.A. Mooney. (2002). Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. Springer-Verlag, New York.
Gliessman, Stephen R. (1998). Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture. Sleeping Bear Pres
Wardle, David A. (2002). Communities and Ecosystems: Linking the Aboveground and Belowground Components. Princeton University Press. Princeton, New Jersey.

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