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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Restoring and Managing Great Basin Ecosystems

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: Western land managers will need all available tools for adapting to climate change, including grazing: A critique of Beschta et al

item Svejcar, Anthony
item Boyd, Chad
item Davies, Kirk
item Madsen, Matthew
item Bates, Jonathan
item Sheley, Roger
item Marlow, Clayton -
item Bohnert, David -
item Borman, Mike -
item Mata-Gonzalez, Richardo -
item Buckhouse, John -
item Stringham, Tamzen -
item Perryman, Barry -
item Swanson, Sherman -
item Tate, Kenneth -
item George, Mel -
item Ruyle, George -
item Roundy, Bruce -
item Call, Chris -
item Jensen, Kevin
item Launchbaugh, Karen -
item Gearhart, Amanda -
item Vermeire, Lance
item Tanaka, John -
item Derner, Justin
item Frasier, Gary
item Havstad, Kris

Submitted to: Environmental Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 11, 2013
Publication Date: January 8, 2014
Repository URL:
Citation: Svejcar, A.J., Boyd, C.S., Davies, K.W., Madsen, M.D., Bates, J.D., Sheley, R.L., Marlow, C., Bohnert, D., Borman, M., Mata-Gonzalez, R., Buckhouse, J., Stringham, T., Perryman, B., Swanson, S., Tate, K., George, M., Ruyle, G., Roundy, B., Call, C., Jensen, K.B., Launchbaugh, K., Gearhart, A., Vermeire, L.T., Tanaka, J., Derner, J.D., Frasier, G.W., Havstad, K.M. 2014. 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. DOI: 10.1007/s00267-013-0218-2.

Interpretive Summary: The impacts of grazing animals on western rangeland have created controversies, especially in light of potential climate change. In a recent scientific publication the authors suggested that most livestock and native large grazers should be removed from western public rangelands to help rangelands cope with climate change. We pointed out some of the flaws in the methods used by these authors to assess the scientific literature, and suggest that the issue is much more complex than they acknowledge. This analysis will be useful to land managers who make grazing-related decisions.

Technical Abstract: In a previous article, Beschta et al. (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 were selective in their use of the scientific literature, and their publication is more of an opinion article than a synthesis. Their conclusions do not reflect the complexities associated with herbivore grazing. Interactions of climate change and grazing will depend on the specific situation. For example, increasing atmospheric CO2 and temperatures may increase both 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 to 50 years land managers have actively sought to bring populations of native and domestic herbivores in balance with the potential of vegetation and soils.

Last Modified: 11/30/2015
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