Data from: The use of cattle Bos taurus for restoring and maintaining holarctic landscapes: conclusions from a long-term study (1946-2017) in northern England
Hall, Stephen J. G.; Bunce, Robert G. H. (2019), Data from: The use of cattle Bos taurus for restoring and maintaining holarctic landscapes: conclusions from a long-term study (1946-2017) in northern England, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2gm8348
Cattle Bos taurus can perform valuable ecological functions in the maintenance of high nature value (HNV) pastoral systems. They have also attracted attention as potentially filling the ecological niches of megaherbivores, notably the extinct aurochs Bos primigenius, in rewilding initiatives. Native cattle breeds are recognized under the 1992 Rio Convention as components of biodiversity. They are used in HNV settings, but their conservation as breeds has rarely been an important consideration for their management in these contexts.
The Chillingham herd has been kept under minimal management in Chillingham Park (northern England) for several centuries. Chillingham Park is not a rewilding scenario, but the long‐term study of the cattle can be informative for the design of rewilding schemes that involve cattle as megaherbivores. The pastures of the park are species‐rich seminatural grasslands.
To 2004, pasture management was influenced by the need to provide herbage for a flock of sheep that was under separate ownership, as well as for the cattle. Surveys of the vegetation conducted in 1979 and 2006–2008 showed a decline of plant species richness (species per 100 m2 quadrat) from 33.8 in 1979 to 22.6 in 2006–2008. This was acceptable as the conservation priority has always been the cattle herd. With removal of the sheep from 2004, it became possible to include recovery of plant diversity as a management goal.
In 2017, the cattle numbered 111 (64 in 1979). Plant species richness in 2017 had increased to 26.3 species per quadrat. It has therefore been possible at Chillingham both to conserve the cattle herd and to improve plant diversity. While providing basic information of relevance to the management of cattle in free‐ranging situations, this study also suggests a general principle, that the management of pastoral landscapes by native breeds of cattle, can deliver multiple conservation benefits.