The fire-exotic annual grass cycle is a severe threat to shrub-steppe rangelands, and a greater understanding of how livestock grazing relates to the problem is needed to guide effective management interventions. Grazing effects vary throughout shrub-steppe rangelands because livestock are selective in their use within pastures. Thus, knowing where cattle are located and concentrate their use in a postfire landscape is important for enhancing plant community resiliency to disturbance and resistance to exotic annual grass invasion. We asked how the distribution and intensity of cattle use varied across 113 000 ha of recently burned, environmentally varied shrub-steppe. Generalized linear mixed effects models were used to determine the relationship of cattle dung (presence/absence and counts), which was recorded during the third to fifth postfire year (after grazing deferment) on 1166 (531-m2) plots, to water sources, burn severity, grass cover, and topographic predictors. Our distribution and intensity of use models revealed similar relationships between cattle use and landscape predictors. Cattle use was greater in areas that were flatter and closer to water and that had moderate burn severity and less heat load and ruggedness. Slope had the strongest effect on cattle use of the predictors. The probability of cattle being present decreased by 10% for every 5° increase in slope until slope exceeded 15°, and then the effect of slope weakened. Despite moderate slopes ( = 14°), cattle use was greater in areas of moderate burn severity, presumably because these areas provided greater perennial grass production. While there was much unexplained variation, these models suggest that cooler climate, water access, topographic factors, and burn severity affect maneuverability to create greater livestock use of certain areas within grazing pastures. Restoration investment planning or assessments and expectations of restoration success could be improved by considering that these livestock hotspots may recover differently from the surrounding landscape.
Anthony CR and Germino MJ. 2022. Predictive Models of Selective Cattle Use of Large, Burned Landscapes in Semiarid Sagebrush-steppe. Rangeland Ecology & Management 85 (November 2022), 8p. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2022.07.007