Fire, Big Animals, and Interactions

  • Reed F. NossEmail author


The preceding chapter concentrated on physical factors, especially geology, soils, landform, and hydrology, which create or maintain grassland within the South. In this chapter I consider a range of abiotic and biotic processes and their interactions. These processes include two major positive feedbacks—fire and large herbivores—identified in the general model as reinforcing and accelerating grassland development following a shift to a drier or more seasonal climate. Large grazing and browsing herbivores abounded within North American grasslands, including southern grasslands, for millions of years. That southern grasslands contain a mix of grazing-adapted rhizomatous (sod-forming) grasses and bunchgrasses suggests that megaherbivores influenced the development of these communities. At times the influence of herbivores may have surpassed the role of fire. Megaherbivores had natural predators, which probably exerted top-down control over their populations and affected their evolution of antipredator morphologies and behaviors over long spans of time.


Large Herbivore Prescribe Fire Alternative Stable State Fine Fuel Salt Lick 
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Copyright information

© Island Press 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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