Livestock grazing effects on fuel loads for wildland fire in sagebrush-dominated ecosystems

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Herbivory and fire are natural interacting forces contributing to the maintenance of rangeland ecosystems. Wildfires in the sagebrush dominated ecosystems of the Great Basin are becoming larger and more frequent, and may dramatically alter plant communities and habitat. This synthesis describes what is currently known about the cumulative impacts of historic livestock grazing patterns and short-term effects of livestock grazing on fuels and fire in sagebrush ecosystems. Over years and decades grazing can alter fuel characteristics of ecosystems. On a yearly basis, grazing can reduce
the amount and alter the continuity of fine fuels, potentially changing wildlife fire spread and intensity. However, how grazing-induced fuel alterations affect wildland fire depends on weather conditions and plant community characteristics. As weather conditions become extreme, the influence of grazing on fire behavior is limited, especially in communities dominated by woody plants.