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Western Land Managers will Need all Available Tools for Adapting to Climate Change, Including Grazing: A Critique of Beschta et al.

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Abstract

In a previous article, Beschta et al. (Environ Manag 51(2):474–491, 2013) argue that grazing by large ungulates (both native and domestic) should be eliminated or greatly reduced on western public lands to reduce potential climate change impacts. The authors did not present a balanced synthesis of the scientific literature, and their publication is more of an opinion article. Their conclusions do not reflect the complexities associated with herbivore grazing. Because grazing is a complex ecological process, synthesis of the scientific literature can be a challenge. Legacy effects of uncontrolled grazing during the homestead era further complicate analysis of current grazing impacts. Interactions of climate change and grazing will depend on the specific situation. For example, increasing atmospheric CO2 and temperatures may increase accumulation of fine fuels (primarily grasses) and thus increase wildfire risk. Prescribed grazing by livestock is one of the few management tools available for reducing fine fuel accumulation. While there are certainly points on the landscape where herbivore impacts can be identified, there are also vast grazed areas where impacts are minimal. Broad scale reduction of domestic and wild herbivores to help native plant communities cope with climate change will be unnecessary because over the past 20–50 years land managers have actively sought to bring populations of native and domestic herbivores in balance with the potential of vegetation and soils. To cope with a changing climate, land managers will need access to all available vegetation management tools, including grazing.

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Correspondence to Tony Svejcar or Clayton Marlow.

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Beschta et al. 2013 (see Literature cited)

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Svejcar, T., Boyd, C., Davies, K. et al. Western Land Managers will Need all Available Tools for Adapting to Climate Change, Including Grazing: A Critique of Beschta et al.. Environmental Management 53, 1035–1038 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-013-0218-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-013-0218-2

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