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Winter grazing decreases the probability of fire-induced mortality of bunchgrasses and may reduce wildfire size: a response to Smith et al. (this issue)

Kirk W. Davies, Chad S. Boyd, Jon D. Bates, April Hulet
International journal of wildland fire 2016 v.25 no.4 pp. 489-493
air, grazing, meristems, mortality, risk, temperature, thermocouples, vegetation, wildfires
A recent commentary by Smith et al. (2016) argues that our study (Davies et al. 2016) contained methodological errors and lacked data necessary to support our conclusions, in particular that winter grazing may reduce the probability of fire-induced mortality of bunchgrasses. Carefully reading Davies et al. (2016) and relevant literature provides strong evidence that the comments of Smith et al. are unfounded. Most notably, Smith et al. (2016) state that thermocouples placed in the air have no correlation to temperatures experienced by vegetation. However, in our study, thermocouples were placed inside the centre of meristematic crowns of bunchgrasses, as was clearly stated in the methods. Nowhere in the manuscript does it say that thermocouples were placed in the air. Duration of elevated temperatures has been repeatedly linked to an increased risk of fire-induced mortality of vegetation in the literature, contrary to claims by Smith et al. (2016) that no evidence of a relationship exists. The conclusion that winter grazing may decrease the likelihood of perennial bunchgrass mortality was not based solely on data collected in this experiment, but also Davies et al. (2009), where post-fire bunchgrass density and production in ungrazed areas were less than half those of grazed areas.