International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Fall and spring grazing influence fire ignitability and initial spread in shrub steppe communities

Kirk W. Davies A C , Amanda Gearhart B , Chad S. Boyd A and Jon D. Bates A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A USDA Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, 67826-A Highway 205, Burns, OR 97720, USA.

B USDI Bureau of Land Management, Eagle Lake Field Office, 2550 Riverside Drive, Susanville, CA 96130, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: kirk.davies@oregonstate.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(6) 485-490 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17065
Submitted: 25 February 2017  Accepted: 12 May 2017   Published: 6 June 2017

Abstract

The interaction between grazing and fire influences ecosystems around the world. However, little is known about the influence of grazing on fire, in particular ignition and initial spread and how it varies by grazing management differences. We investigated effects of fall (autumn) grazing, spring grazing and not grazing on fuel characteristics, fire ignition and initial spread during the wildfire season (July and August) at five shrub steppe sites in Oregon, USA. Both grazing treatments decreased fine fuel biomass, cover and height, and increased fuel moisture, and thereby decreased ignition and initial spread compared with the ungrazed treatment. However, effects differed between fall and spring grazing. The probability of initial spread was 6-fold greater in the fall-grazed compared with the spring-grazed treatment in August. This suggests that spring grazing may have a greater effect on fires than fall grazing, likely because fall grazing does not influence the current year’s plant growth. Results of this study also highlight that the grazing–fire interaction will vary by grazing management. Grazing either the fall or spring before the wildfire season reduces the probability of fire propagation and, thus, grazing is a potential fuel management tool.

Additional keywords: fuel management, fuel moisture, grazing–fire interaction, grazing management, sagebrush, wildfire suppression.


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