International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
COMMENT AND RESPONSE

The ability of winter grazing to reduce wildfire size and fire-induced plant mortality was not demonstrated: a comment on Davies et al. (2015)

Alistair M. S. Smith A B I , Alan F. Talhelm B C , Crystal A. Kolden A D , Beth A. Newingham E , Henry D. Adams F , Jack D. Cohen G , Kara M. Yedinak A B and Robert L. Kremens H
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Idaho Fire Initiative for Research and Education, 975 West 6th Street, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA.

B Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences, 975 West 6th Street, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID, 83844, USA.

C Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education, National Center for Environmental Assessment, US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 277094, USA.

D Department of Geography, 875 Perimeter Drive, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA.

E Great Basin Rangelands Research Unit, 920 Valley Road, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Reno, NV 89512, USA.

F Department of Botany, 104 Life Sciences Building E, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA.

G Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, 7557 West Broadway Street, United States Forest Service, Missoula, MT 59808, USA.

H College of Science, Gosnell Hall, 84, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623, USA.

I Corresponding author. Email: alistair@uidaho.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 25(4) 484-488 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF15163
Submitted: 4 September 2015  Accepted: 15 November 2015   Published: 3 March 2016

Abstract

A recent study by Davies et al. sought to test whether winter grazing could reduce wildfire size, fire behaviour and intensity metrics, and fire-induced plant mortality in shrub–grasslands. The authors concluded that ungrazed rangelands may experience fire-induced mortality of native perennial bunchgrasses. The authors also presented several statements regarding the benefits of winter grazing on post-fire plant community responses. However, we contend that the study by Davies et al. has underlying methodological errors, lacks data necessary to support their conclusions, and does not provide a thorough discussion on the effect of grazing on rangeland ecosystems. Importantly, Davies et al. presented no data on the post-fire mortality of the perennial bunchgrasses or on the changes in plant community composition following their experimental fires. Rather, Davies et al. inferred these conclusions based on their observed fire behaviour metrics of maximum temperature and a term described as the ‘heat load’. However, we contend that neither metric is appropriate for describing the heat flux impacts on plants. This lack of post-fire data, several methodological errors and the use of inappropriate thermal metrics limit the authors’ ability to support their stated conclusions.

Additional keywords: intensity, severity, thermocouples.


References

Adler PB, Milchunas DG, Sala OE, Burke IC, Lauenroth WK (2005) Plant traits and ecosystem grazing effects: comparison of US sagebrush steppe and Patagonian steppe. Ecological Applications 15, 774–792.
Plant traits and ecosystem grazing effects: comparison of US sagebrush steppe and Patagonian steppe.CrossRef |

Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2012) Interdependencies between flame length and fireline intensity in predicting crown fire initiation and crown scorch height. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21, 95–113.
Interdependencies between flame length and fireline intensity in predicting crown fire initiation and crown scorch height.CrossRef |

Bova AS, Dickinson MB (2008) Beyond ‘fire temperatures’: calibrating thermocouple probes and modeling their response to surface fires in hardwood fuels. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 38, 1008–1020.
Beyond ‘fire temperatures’: calibrating thermocouple probes and modeling their response to surface fires in hardwood fuels.CrossRef |

Butler BW, Dickinson MB (2010) Tree injury and mortality in fires: developing process-based models. Fire Ecology 6, 55–79.
Tree injury and mortality in fires: developing process-based models.CrossRef |

Campbell GS, Norman JS (2012) ‘An introduction to environmental biophysics.’ (Springer Science & Business Media: New York, NY)

Chambers JC, Roundy BA, Blank RR, Meyer SE, Whittaker A (2007) What makes Great Basin sagebrush ecosystems invasible by Bromus tectorum? Ecological Applications 77, 117–145.

Cheney NP, Gould JS (1995) Fire growth in grassland fuels. International Journal of Wildland Fire 5, 237–247.
Fire growth in grassland fuels.CrossRef |

Cheney NP, Gould JS, Catchpole WR (1993) The influence of fuel, weather and fire shape variables on fire spread in grasslands. International Journal of Wildland Fire 3, 31–44.
The influence of fuel, weather and fire shape variables on fire spread in grasslands.CrossRef |

D’Antonio CM, Vitousek PM (1992) Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 23, 63–87.
Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change.CrossRef |

Davies KW, Svejcar TJ, Bates JD (2009) Interaction of historical and non-historical disturbances maintains native plant communities. Ecological Applications 19, 1536–1545.
Interaction of historical and non-historical disturbances maintains native plant communities.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DC%2BD1MnjvVSgsw%3D%3D&md5=99730e91125fdba1be4c35a56f1555daCAS | 19769101PubMed |

Davies KW, Boyd CS, Bates JD, Hulet A (2015) Winter grazing can reduce wildfire size, intensity and behaviour in a shrub–grassland. International Journal of Wildland Fire
Winter grazing can reduce wildfire size, intensity and behaviour in a shrub–grassland.CrossRef |

Diamond JM, Call CA, Devoe N (2009) Effects of targeted cattle grazing on fire behavior of cheatgrass-dominated rangeland in the Northern Great Basin, USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 944–950.
Effects of targeted cattle grazing on fire behavior of cheatgrass-dominated rangeland in the Northern Great Basin, USA.CrossRef |

DiTomaso JM (2000) Invasive weeds in rangelands: species, impacts, and management. Weed Science 48, 255–265.
Invasive weeds in rangelands: species, impacts, and management.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3cXjsFeqsL4%3D&md5=82b0df12cc2eff3575616b9d3ac2ac8cCAS |

Fleischner TL (1994) Ecological costs of livestock grazing in western North America. Conservation Biology 8, 629–644.
Ecological costs of livestock grazing in western North America.CrossRef |

Greenwood KL, McKenzie BM (2001) Grazing effects on soil physical properties and the consequences for pastures: a review. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 41, 1231–1250.
Grazing effects on soil physical properties and the consequences for pastures: a review.CrossRef |

InciWeb (2015) United States current wildfire incidents. Available at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/ [Verified 28 Aug 2015]

Johnson EA, Miyanishi K (1995) The need for consideration of fire behavior and effects in prescribed burning. Restoration Ecology 3, 271–278.
The need for consideration of fire behavior and effects in prescribed burning.CrossRef |

Jones AL (2000) Effects of cattle grazing on North American arid ecosystems: a quantitative review. Western North American Naturalist 60, 155–164.

Knapp PA (1996) Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) dominance in the Great Basin Desert. Global Environmental Change 6, 37–52.
Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) dominance in the Great Basin Desert.CrossRef |

Kolden CA, Lutz JA, Key CH, Kane JT, van Wagtendonk JW (2012) Mapped versus actual burned area within wildfire perimeters: characterizing the unburned. Forest Ecology and Management 286, 38–47.
Mapped versus actual burned area within wildfire perimeters: characterizing the unburned.CrossRef |

Kremens R, Smith AMS, Dickinson MB (2010) Fire metrology: current and future directions in physics-based measurements. Fire Ecology 6, 13–35.
Fire metrology: current and future directions in physics-based measurements.CrossRef |

Launchbaugh KL, Brammer B, Brooks ML, Bunting SC, Clark P, Davison J, Flemming M, Kay R, Pellant M, Pyke DA (2008) Interactions among livestock grazing, vegetation type, and fire behavior in the Murphy Wildland Fire Complex in Idaho and Nevada, July 2007, Open-File Report 2008–1214. (United States Geological Survey: Reston, VA)

Loeser MRR, Sisk TD, Crews TE (2007) Impact of grazing intensity during drought in an Arizona grassland. Conservation Biology 21, 87–97.
Impact of grazing intensity during drought in an Arizona grassland.CrossRef |

Lunt ID, Eldridge DJ, Morgan JW, Witt GB (2007) A framework to predict the effects of livestock grazing and grazing exclusion on conservation values in natural ecosystems in Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 55, 401–415.
A framework to predict the effects of livestock grazing and grazing exclusion on conservation values in natural ecosystems in Australia.CrossRef |

McNaughton SJ, Stronach NRH, Georgiadis NJ (1998) Combustion in natural fires and global emission budgets. Ecological Applications 8, 464–468.
Combustion in natural fires and global emission budgets.CrossRef |

Michaletz ST, Johnson EA (2007) How forest fires kill trees: a review of the fundamental biophysical processes. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 22, 500–515.
How forest fires kill trees: a review of the fundamental biophysical processes.CrossRef |

Mosley JC (1996) Prescribed sheep grazing to suppress cheatgrass: a review. Sheep and Goat Research Journal 1, 74–81.

Odion DC, Davis FW (2000) Fire, soil heating, and the formation of vegetation patterns in chaparral. Ecological Monographs 70, 149–169.
Fire, soil heating, and the formation of vegetation patterns in chaparral.CrossRef |

Palaez DV, Boo RM, Mayor M, Ella OR (2001) Effect of fire on perennial grasses in central semiarid Argentina Journal of Range Management 54, 617–621.

Reisner MD, Grace JB, Pyke DA, Doescher PS (2013) Conditions favouring Bromus tectorum dominance of endangered sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Journal of Applied Ecology 50, 1039–1049.
Conditions favouring Bromus tectorum dominance of endangered sagebrush steppe ecosystem.CrossRef |

Safford HD, Harrison SP (2001) Grazing and substrate interact to affect native vs exotic diversity in roadside grasslands. Ecological Applications 11, 1112–1122.
Grazing and substrate interact to affect native vs exotic diversity in roadside grasslands.CrossRef |

Smith AMS, Wooster MJ, Drake NA, Dipotso FM, Falkowski MJ, Hudak AT (2005) Testing the potential of multispectral remote sensing for retrospectively estimating fire severity in African savanna environments. Remote Sensing of Environment 97, 92–115.
Testing the potential of multispectral remote sensing for retrospectively estimating fire severity in African savanna environments.CrossRef |

Stohlgren TJ, Schell LD, Vanden Heuvel B (1999) How grazing and soil quality affect native and exotic plant diversity in Rocky Mountain grasslands. Ecological Applications 9, 45–64.
How grazing and soil quality affect native and exotic plant diversity in Rocky Mountain grasslands.CrossRef |

Tachajapong W, Lozano J, Mahalingam S, Weise DR (2014) Experimental modeling of crown fire initiation in open and closed shrubland systems. International Journal of Wildland Fire 23, 451–462.
Experimental modeling of crown fire initiation in open and closed shrubland systems.CrossRef |

Van Wagner CE (1971) Two solitudes in forest fire research. Canadian Forestry Service, Petawawa Forest Experiment Station, Information Report PS-X-29. (Chalk River, ON)

Van Wagner CE, Methven IR (1978) Discussion: two recent articles on fire ecology. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 8, 491–492.
Discussion: two recent articles on fire ecology.CrossRef |

Veblen KE, Nehring KC, McGlone CM, Ritchie ME (2015) Contrasting effects of different mammalian herbivores on sagebrush plant communities. PLoS One 10, e0118016
Contrasting effects of different mammalian herbivores on sagebrush plant communities.CrossRef | 25671428PubMed |

Weltz MA, Kidwell MR, Fox HD (1998) Influence of abiotic and biotic factors in measuring and modeling soil erosion on rangelands: state of knowledge. Journal of Range Management 51, 482–495.
Influence of abiotic and biotic factors in measuring and modeling soil erosion on rangelands: state of knowledge.CrossRef |

Wotton BM, Gould JS, McCaw WL, Cheney NP, Taylor SW (2012) Flame temperature and residence time of fires in dry eucalypt forest. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21, 270–281.
Flame temperature and residence time of fires in dry eucalypt forest.CrossRef |

Wright HA (1970) A method to determine heat-caused mortality in bunchgrasses. Ecology 51, 582–587.
A method to determine heat-caused mortality in bunchgrasses.CrossRef |

Wright HA, Klemmedson JO (1965) Effect of fire on bunchgrasses of the sagebrush–grass region in southern Idaho. Ecology 46, 680–688.
Effect of fire on bunchgrasses of the sagebrush–grass region in southern Idaho.CrossRef |



Export Citation

View Altmetrics