Abstract: This report describes the effects artificial watering points have on rangeland systems and their biota in Australia. One of the recent concerns regarding the large-scale spread of artificial watering points has been the effect that the increase in grazing pressure surrounding these focal points has on rangeland biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity in these regions has been attributed to the decline in landscape function as a result of human induced disturbances. As grazing pressure increases around these focal points, landscape function declines considerably, with a loss in vegetation cover, an increase in erosion, and a decrease in nutrient cycling. Literature on the effects of grazing pressure surrounding artificial water sources was reviewed according to three main topics of interest. 1) The patterns displayed within the biosphere: These patterns can be highly variable depending on grazing behaviour and forage conditions, the presence of fences, soil type, the salinity of water and climatic variables. A number of monitoring indices have been suggested; however, as there appears to be no universal pattern to the biosphere, researchers have been unable to agree on monitoring systems. 2) The degradation process, including soil compaction and erosion, and the effects on fauna and flora composition: Soil erosion increases significantly within the first 2–3 km from water as a result of heavy traffic and vegetation stripping. A significant loss of functionality in this region alters the vegetation dynamics. This includes a decline in abundance and richness of palatable forage species. Feral herbivore species have increased in abundance, contributing to the pressure exerted within these regions. Native fauna species have mostly suffered declines as a result of increased pressure and habitat alterations. 3) Biodiversity monitoring: This section covers more recent monitoring practices including remote sensing techniques and the use of Bayesian belief network models. These methods can monitor large areas and account for both temporal and spatial variation. Bayesian belief models can incorporate both empirical data and that of expert opinion, and can predict the response of a system to human disturbance. Both these models can be incorporated to produce a powerful monitoring tool.
Notes: The WaterSmart Pastoralism™ Literature Reviews