Date of this Version
Published in Environmental Science & Policy 31 (August 2013), pp. 53–60; doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2013.03.005
Conservation policy often incentivizes managers of human-impacted areas to create landscape heterogeneity to maximize biodiversity. In rangeland, patchy disturbance regimes create landscape heterogeneity (patch contrast), but outcomes of heterogeneity-based management are rarely tested for a universal response. We analyzed four habitat variables—vegetation structure, plant functional group composition, litter cover, and bare ground—from five experimental rangelands in Oklahoma and Iowa, USA. We tested for response consistency to heterogeneity-based management across and within locations. We calculated effect sizes for each variable to compare patch contrast on pastures managed for heterogeneity (patch burn-grazing) and pastures managed for homogeneity (grazing with homogeneous fire regimes). Effects varied considerably across and within locations. Effects of heterogeneity-based management were positive for all variables at only three of five experimental rangeland locations. No location showed a consistent pattern of positive effect across all four variables, although one location showed no effect for any variable. At another location, we found a positive effect of heterogeneity-based management on litter cover and bare ground, but no effect on vegetation structure and plant functional group composition. We discuss effect variability and how the fire–grazing interaction applies to rangeland management and conservation. Although it is accepted practice to use heterogeneity- based management to increase rangeland habitat diversity, managers should also confirm that evaluation metrics match desired conservation outcomes.
Includes Supplementary Information.