Some notes on the connection between alpine grazing and fire regimes from the CSIRO – does’ grazing reduce blazing’?
Cattle grazing and alpine ecology
Cattle prefer to graze the open grassy communities, where there are more palatable plants, and they tend to avoid the closed heath communities. Thus, any fuel reduction effect as a result of cattle grazing is occurring in the least flammable part of the landscape, and not where the propagating fuels (dense shrubs) are located.
Long-term data shows that cattle have very little or no impact on shrub cover (and hence fuel loads) in the heaths. The heaths are therefore likely to burn more severely than the grasslands, and fire severity within heaths – all other things being equal – will be similar whether they are grazed or not.
Does grazing reduce blazing in alpine landscapes?
“Alpine grazing reduces blazing” is a widely and strongly held view, in both rural and urban regions, concerning fire in Australia’s high country. Whether cattle reduce the incidence and intensity of fire by grazing the vegetation, and hence reducing fuel, has been a central question for decades in the debate about land management in the high country. The available bio-physical evidence, based on long-term ecological research and the behaviour and impacts of the wide-spread 2003 fires, suggests it does not.