Assessment of Animal-Based Methods Used for Estimating and Monitoring Rangeland Herbivore Diet Composition Academic Article uri icon


  • 2018 The Authors Researchers and managers need effective tools for monitoring the use of forages by large herbivores. Since 2000, the number of herbivore diet studies has nearly doubled. In this review, we determine trends in the field; assess the utility of key techniques against five criteria (cost, accuracy and precision, resolution, utility for long-term monitoring programs, and appropriateness for browsers and grazers); and make recommendations to give managers appropriate tools. Three techniques stand out: microhistology, near infrared reflectance spectroscopy, and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) barcoding. Microhistology has a long history of use in rangelands and is often considered the gold standard for understanding diet composition, albeit at a high cost of labor. Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy can resolve the presence of target groups or species more quickly than microhistology, especially for grazers. DNA barcoding provides the greatest resolution of dietary items with less quantitative certainty than microhistology. The costs associated with DNA barcoding come primarily from technology and sequencing, while in microhistology they are associated with labor. Therefore, an improved, streamlined microhistology method could provide rangeland managers a rapid and cost-effective method for diet monitoring. Ultimately, the complex challenges facing rangeland managers today may require the use of more than one method to achieve acceptable resolution within actionable time frames.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Garnick, S., Barboza, P. S., & Walker, J. W.

citation count

  • 33

complete list of authors

  • Garnick, Sarah||Barboza, Perry S||Walker, John W

publication date

  • July 2018