We studied sheep (Ovis aries, L.) and rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus, L.) grazing effects on the spread of induced fire on an open sand grassland community in the Hungarian Plain. Patches of open sand grassland were grazed by sheep in April and by sheep and rabbit in May of 2003. The halves of the patches were burnt in July. Canopy cover of litter and of the vascular plant species, species number, plant height, burnt area and the speed of fire-spread were estimated in one by one meter quadrates. Burnt area was significantly smaller in case of late sheep grazing, while the speed of fire-spread decreased significantly due to rabbit grazing compared to the control. Plant height was significantly decreased by early and late sheep grazing, while rabbit grazing resulted in significantly lower canopy cover values of vascular plants compared to the control. Early sheep grazing caused overcompensation considering the canopy cover of the vascular plants. Species number was not affected by the grazing treatments. This one-year experiment demonstrated that moderate grazing has no short-term effects on the species diversity of the semiarid open sand grassland, furthermore, late spring grazing decreased the spread of fire on the grassland part of the community, thus it may inhibit the burning of large areas of the semiarid forest-steppe.
Ónodi G, Kertész M, Botta-Dukát Z et al: Grazing Effects on Vegetation ... (2008)
Ónodi Gábor, Kertész Miklós, Botta-Dukát Zoltán, Altbäcker Vilmos
Grazing Effects on Vegetation Composition and on the Spread of Fire on Open Sand Grasslands.
Arid Land Research and Management 22:273-285