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Research   »   Rangeland and Riparian Health

Rangeland and Riparian Health

Rangeland, or range, can perform a number of valuable functions for both the livestock industry as well the general public. Rangeland is defined as land that supports indigenous or introduced vegetation that is either grazed or has the potential to be grazed and is managed as a natural ecosystem. By evaluating its health, cattle producers can manage their grazing lands for optimal, sustainable forage production.

Grazing cattle contribue to preservation of biodiversityThe benefits of maintaining healthy rangeland for livestock producers include:

  • Lower feed costs
  • Renewable and reliable source of forage production
  • Stability of forage production during drought
  • Greater flexibility and efficiency for alternate grazing seasons (fall or winter)
  • Lower maintenance costs like weed control
  • Does not require the input of inorganic fertilizers and other soil amendments and additives
  • Reduced concern for noxious weeds

 Rangeland Health Assessments

The following video defines rangelands, covers the principles of range management and highlights some of the assessment tools that are available.

Next, we see a rangeland health assessment performed using five key questions on a lightly grazed site in Southern Alberta, and see how it compares to heavily and very heavily grazed range.

Riparian Zone Assessments

The area between land and a river or stream is called a riparian zone. When riparian zones are healthy, they serve important roles in soil conservation, habitat biodiversity, and aquatic ecosystems.

The following video describes what to look for to assess the health of riparian zones on your land, and explains where to find additional resources to help with riparian assessments.

The next video describes the top strategies to improve and maintain riparian health, and offers ideas on where producers can find financial support for the costs associated with making changes like adding riparian fencing and off-site watering systems.

Learn More

To learn more on this topic, see the fact sheets posted on the right side of this page. External resources related to this topic are listed below.

Rangeland Health Assessment for Grassland, Forest and Tame Pasture
Alberta ESRD

Native Grassland and Forest Workbook
Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan

Grazing & Range Management
Alberta ESRD

Saskatchewan Grassland & Riparian Health Assessment Field Books
Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan

Assessing your Grazinglands
BC Ministry of Agriculture

Range Monitoring with Photo Points (PDF)
Texas Agriculture Extension Service

Caring for the Green Zone – Riparian Areas and Grazing Management
Cows and Fish

Riparian Areas: A User’s Guide to Health
Cows and Fish


Feedback and questions on the content of this page are welcome. Please e-mail us at info [at] beefresearch [dot] ca

This topic was last revised on March 5, 2014 at 9:03 AM.

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