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Cattle have been grazed in the forested areas of northern NSW for over 150 years. While this practice is considered to have significant benefits for forest management and the local economy, the combined effects of grazing and fire has raised concerns about the impact of this composite management practice on the flora and fauna. The effects on a biodiverse and functionally important component, the terrestrial invertebrates, are largely unknown. This study looked at ground-active invertebrates and found that grazing impacts operate within a configuration of broader environmental and historical factors. At a landscape scale, abundance and taxon richness were influenced by geology (and related aspects of topography and soil), although response patterns varied between groups. There was a marked spatial patterning in richness, probably as a response to a rainfall-related productivity gradient. Past logging practices have created patches of more open environments within the overall forest matrix and it appears that cattle graze preferentially in these areas. At this smaller scale, abundance and richness were related to aspects of forest structure and soil physical properties. Grazing and associated burning appear to have decreased the amount and spatial variability of understorey vegetation and soil organic matter, with these changes influencing community composition (at the ordinal level). Grazing related impacts on invertebrate assemblages were however subtle, which is expected given the low overall range of grazing intensities studied in this project. The applicability of coarse-level data to describe and interpret patterns and disturbance effects is discussed. Future management needs to consider the role of grazing in the context of changed land tenure in these forests, particularly with regard to altered fire regimes and their effect on biodiversity conservation.

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