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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Ecological heterogeneity in the effects of grazing and fire on grassland diversity
Year: 2003
Author(s): Harrison, S., Inouye, B. D., Stafford, H. D.
Source Title: Conservation Biology
Source Type: Journal
pages: 837-845
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Grazing and fire and are major forces shaping patterns of native and exotic species diversity in many grasslands, yet both of these disturbances have notoriously variable effects. Few studies have examined how landscape-level heterogeneity in grassland characteristics, such as soil-based variation in biomass and species composition, may contribute to variation in the effects of fire or grazing. We studied the effects of livestock grazing and fire in a mosaic of serpentine and nonserpentine soils in California, where most grasslands are dominated by exotic annuals and serpentine soil is the major refuge for native grassland species. We predicted that the effects of disturbance would be proportional to productivity and therefore would be greater on nonserpentine than serpentine soils. We measured species composition at 80100 grazed or ungrazed sites for 2 years before (19981999) and 2 years after (20002001) an autumn wildfire. Both disturbances increased total species richness on both soils. However, fire enhanced total and exotic species richness more on nonserpentine soils and enhanced native species richness more on serpentine soils. Grazing increased native species richness on serpentine soils but not on nonserpentine soils. These soil-disturbance interactions suggest that the use of fire and grazing to manage native species diversity in wildlands must be done with careful attention to background ecological heterogeneity.