Grazing Preferences and Vegetation Feedbacks of the Fire-Grazing Interaction in the Northern Great Plains

Jacob Powell, Brian Martin, Victoria J. Dreitz, Brady W. Allred

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The fire-grazing interaction is well studied in mesic grasslands worldwide, but research is limited in semiarid systems. We examined the principal drivers and feedbacks of the fire-grazing interaction on the strength of cattle grazing selection, herbaceous biomass, crude protein, and vegetation structure and composition in two pastures in the Northern Great Plains. Cattle showed significant preference, use, and grazing utilization in recently burned patches that declined as time since fire increased. Cattle selection was driven by significantly increased crude protein in recent burns. Grazing utilization of 70% in patches with < 1 yr after fire established low herbaceous biomass, but the extent to which it was maintained varied with precipitation. Herbaceous biomass increased to nonburned levels 2 yr after fire, and crude protein decreased to nonburned levels 120 d after fire. Species composition was influenced primarily by site and year, though bare ground and litter were influenced by the fire-grazing interaction. Our data indicate that mixed-grass prairies of the Northern Great Plains are resilient to the fire-grazing interaction and that rest from grazing following fire is likely ecologically unnecessary. The use of the fire-grazing interaction is an alternative management strategy suitable for the Northern Great Plains, effectively increasing heterogeneity of grassland habitat.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-52
    Number of pages8
    JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
    Volume71
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 2018

    Keywords

    • fire-grazing interaction
    • forage production
    • grazing distribution
    • mixed-grass prairie
    • semiarid
    • vegetation heterogeneity

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