Sustainable Ranch Practices

Sustainable Ranch Practices

UNT Diving Eagle
February 17, 2022

Read more about how UNT researchers are protecting the environment.

A collaboration between UNT researchers and the Dixon Water Foundation is helping to create sustainable ranch practices and further basic science about biodiversity. The foundation owns and operates several working cattle ranches, including two outside of Decatur, which seek to demonstrate environmentally and economically sound ways to manage rangeland. The ranches use a method called multi-paddock grazing where cattle are moved around very frequently so they don’t overgraze any particular area. They partner with local researchers to monitor how the environment responds to their stewardship and fund grants, including one that is supporting UNT biological sciences associate professor David Hoeinghaus’ studies on the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of the ranches’ aquatic habitats.

“His work fits our mission,” says Melissa Bookhout, North Texas Education Program Coordinator for the Dixon Water Foundation. “We’re impressed with all the research that’s been going on at UNT.”

Because aquatic habitats can change drastically from season to season and year to year, Hoeinghaus and his team are working to identify the distribution of water on the ranch in terms of time and space.

Additionally, UNT assistant professor of biological sciences Elinor Lichtenberg is looking at insect pollinator communities on the ranches. Both researchers are comparing the biodiversity across different variations of grazing practices, such as the amount of time cattle spend in a particular area, beginning with a baseline inventory of aquatic species and insect species. Later they hope to broaden their scope to look at land management as a whole to determine what types of practices impact those communities.

Their data will enable an assessment of how this alternate grazing management practice com-pares with traditional grazing management practices in terms of aquatic ecosystem condition and functioning and ultimately seek to improve best management practices for long-term sustainability of rangelands.

“Understanding how these factors drive changes in the pollinator communities is really important if we want to develop data-driven land management practices,” Lichtenberg says.