The University of Saskatchewan and Nature Conservancy of Canada are leading the project
By Diego Flammini
Western Canadian scientists want to collect in-depth information about how some animals graze.
Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will monitor how cattle and bison feed along the 13,000-acre Old Man on His Back Ranch.
Bison and cattle will wear GPS collars that track their movements. Researchers will study where the animals go and what they graze on.
Then, the scientists will introduce changes to grazing patterns to study how the adjusted feeding patterns impact the plants and animals native to the area, which has been protected by NCC since 1995.
“The team from the university has set up plots throughout the ranch and they’re (tracking) detailed information,” Matthew Braun, NCC’s manager of conservation science and planning, told Farms.com today. “They’ll take soil samples, species compositions, forage productivity samples and other indicators that help us show what kind of birds would like that habitat.”
The grasslands in the area have evolved as bison roam. The scientists want to examine how closely they can simulate that evolution.
They also want to demonstrate a positive relationship between agricultural land use and conservation initiatives.
“The whole point of this (project) is to see if we can improve the environment for some of the plant and animal species that live on that property,” Braun said. “In some cases it’s not good enough to just have grassland (for birds), we need some that’s well-grazed and low.”
The project is still in its infancy, Braun added.