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1 February 2008 African Grazing Lawns—How Fire, Rainfall, and Grazer Numbers Interact to Affect Grass Community States
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Abstract

Grazing lawns are recognized as important components of many savanna ecosystems, but there is no clarity on their origin or their stability in space and time. Some researchers believe soil nutrients control grazing lawn distributions. Others believe feedbacks created by herding mammals grazing in patches can promote the spread of grazing lawns without soil nutrient differences. This in turn is affected by rainfall and fire. We presented a simulation model that tests the conditions required for the initiation and spread of grazing lawns. Lawns were shown to develop in a homogeneous soil substrate, but only during periods of low rainfall, high grazer densities, and infrequent fires. Including heterogeneity in the model did not increase grazing lawn area but did reduce the effectiveness of frequent fires in preventing their establishment. We compared these results with conditions in a typical savanna park in Southern Africa. Running the model under current fire, grazing, and rainfall conditions reproduced the current grazing lawn proportions in the park. Using lower fire frequencies and higher grazer densities—such as were experienced in the park in the last 100 years—could more than double the proportion of grazing lawns in the park.

S. Archibald "African Grazing Lawns—How Fire, Rainfall, and Grazer Numbers Interact to Affect Grass Community States," Journal of Wildlife Management 72(2), 492-501, (1 February 2008). https://doi.org/10.2193/2007-045
Published: 1 February 2008
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