Bison and fires in grasslands maintain heterogeneity by interacting to create patch grazing.

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“The interaction of grazing and fire is an important influence on diversity and spatial patterns of vegetation in mesic Great Plains grasslands (Biondini et al. 1989, Vinton et al. 1993, Steuter et al. 1995, Hartnett et al. 1996). Fire influences bison grazing patterns, and bison grazing determines the extent and intensity of fires. Bison prefer recently burned areas because of the high-quality regrowth after a fire (Coppedge and Shaw 1998). When only a portion of the area available to bison is burned, intense grazing of burned patches postpones grazing on unburned patches (Figure 4), which results in an accumulation of fuel and an increased probability of fire in unburned patches (Steuter 1986, Hobbs et al. 1991). This interactive model is complicated by the season in which a burn occurs, which influences the effects of fire (Ewing and Engle 1988, Biondini et al. 1989, Howe 1994a) and bison preferences for certain patches (Shaw and Carter 1990, Coppedge and Shaw 1998). Thus, the interaction of these two disturbances—fire and bison grazing patterns—is capable of producing a dynamic patch mosaic of plant communities within grazed grasslands (Steuter et al. 1995, Hamilton 1996).” (Fuhlendorf and Engle 2001:628)

Journal article
Restoring heterogeneity on rangelands: ecosystem management based on evolutionary grazing patternsBioScience, Vol 51, Issue 8Fuhlendorf, SD; Engle, DM

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