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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Fire and Grazing Effects on Wind Erosion, Soil Water Content, and Soil Temperature

Authors
item Vermeire, Lance
item Wester, David - TTU
item Mitchell, Robert
item Fuhlendorf, Samuel - OSU

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Quality
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 11, 2005
Publication Date: July 1, 2005
Repository URL: http://ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/54340000/Publications/lance34-1559[1].pdf
Citation: Vermeire, L.T., Wester, D.B., Mitchell, R., Fuhlendorf, S.D. 2005. Fire and grazing effects on wind erosion, soil water content, and soil temperature. Journal of Environmental Quality 34:1559-1565.

Interpretive Summary: Fire and grazing have independently been shown to affect soils. Selective grazing of burned patches within greater non-burned areas can be expected if animal distribution is not controlled. Our objectives were to quantify the effects of patch burning and grazing on wind erosion, soil water content, and soil temperature in sand sagebrush mixed-grass prairie. We selected 24, 4-ha plots on sand sagebrush-dominated sites near Woodward, OK. Four plots were burned during autumn, four during spring, and four served as non-burned controls for each of two years. Pastures were stocked with cattle (Apr.-Sep.) given unrestricted access to burned patches (<2% of pastures). Wind erosion, soil water content, and soil temperature were measured monthly. Wind erosion varied by burn, year, and sampling height. Wind erosion was about 2 to 48 times greater on fall-burned plots than non-burned plots during the dormant period. Growing-season erosion was greatest early in the season. Erosion of spring-burned sites was double that of non-burned sites both years. Autumn-burned sites were similar to non-burned sites except for one year with a dry April-May period. Soil water content was unaffected by patch burn treatments. Soils of burned plots were generally 1 to 3oC warmer than those of non-burned plots, based on diurnal measurements. Our results conflicted with those that have shown burned sites to be drier than non-burned sites and temperature differences were smaller than those observed elsewhere. We believe the lower water holding capacity of sandy soils moderated effects on soil water content and soil temperature. Despite poor growing conditions during the dormant and early growing season and heavy selective grazing of burned patches, no blowouts or drifts were observed.

Technical Abstract: Selective grazing of burned patches can be intense if animal distribution is not controlled and may compound the independent effects of fire and grazing on soil characteristics. Our objectives were to quantify the effects of patch burning and grazing on wind erosion soil water content, and soil temperature in sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia Torr.) mixed prairie. We selected 24, 4-ha plots near Woodward, OK. Four plots were burned during autumn (mid-Nov.), four during spring (mid-Apr.), and four served as non-burned patches (<2% of pastures) and utilization was about 78%. Wind erosion, soil water content, and soil temperature were measured monthly. Wind erosion varied by burn, year, and sampling height. Wind erosion was about 2 to 48 times greater on autumn-burned plots than non-burned plots during the dormant period (Dec.-Apr.). Growing-season (Apr.-Aug.) erosion was greatest during spring. Erosion of spring-burned sites was double that of non-burned sites except for one year with a dry April=May. Soil water content was unaffected by patch burn treatments. Soils of burned plots were 1 to 3 C warmer than those of non-burned plots, based on mid-day measurements. Lower water holding and deep percolation capacity of sandy soils probably moderated effects on soil water content and soil temperature. Despite poor growing conditions following fire and heavy selective grazing of burned patches, no blowouts or drifts were observed.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014
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