Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Implementation Of Patch Burning: A Management Tool For The Attwater's Prairie Chicken.
Carl Schwope
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Overarching patch burning objectives typically are intended to create greater ecological heterogeneity; habitat and landscape diversity. In this case management objectives are also to enable the endangered Attwater's prairie chickens better access to a variety of habitat resources to improve survivorship and reproductive success. The temporary attraction and intensive use of improved forage by livestock and large herbivores in newly burned patches also influences these long-term ecological objectives. Reduced selective grazing on preferred forage species within freshly burned patches can reduce exotic and invasive species cover. Under higher stocking rates, livestock performance can also potentially be improved through patch burning. Multiple patches per pasture can provide more even livestock dispersal and result in lighter utilization of older burned patches yielding more rapid ecological recovery. The patch-burn-herbivore interaction can also result in greater ecological heterogeneity that is typically commensurate with enhanced landscape biological diversity compared to traditional grazing systems. Known obstacles to patch burning are not insurmountable. Smaller burn patches (=40 acres) require additional fire breaks requiring increased economic input. However, annual disking of fire breaks increases forb production, reducing the need of food plot requirements by the Attwater prairie chicken. This presentation will address barriers and advantages to patch burning over traditional systems, along with management activities that have been implemented to help alleviate concerns.

Additional Information
Carl Schwope --- Unites States Fish and Wildlife Service, Marble Falls, TX, USA