Restoring heterogeneity on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: applying the fire-grazing interaction model
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
Author(s): Robert G. Hamilton
Editor(s): Ronald E. Masters; Krista E. M. Galley
Publication Year: 2007

Cataloging Information

  • biodiversity
  • bison
  • Bison bison
  • cattle
  • fire
  • fire-grazing interaction
  • grassland
  • grazing
  • Great Plains
  • heterogeneity
  • Oklahoma
  • patch burn grazing
  • tallgrass prairie
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: March 23, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 17961


The interaction of fire and grazing is an important ecological process in the Great Plains grasslands of North America. The fire-grazing interaction promotes a shifting mosaic of patches that support a diverse array of grassland flora and fauna. This ecosystem variability, or heterogeneity, has been identified as critical to the maintenance of biological diversity and therefore should serve as the foundation for conservation and ecosystem management. Landscape heterogeneity has been a primary focus of the ecological management plan at The Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma. Since 1993, an expanding bison (Bison bison) herd has been interacting with randomly selected burn patches that reflect the historical seasonality and frequency of fire. The fire-bison interaction produces vegetation structural and compositional heterogeneity in an ever-shifting landscape patch mosaic. Research and monitoring has confirmed that this heterogeneity provides for the full array of tallgrass prairie biodiversity. The larger-scale conservation challenge is to develop cattle management regimes that incorporate some of the same "biodiversity friendly" elements as fire-bison. To that end, The Nature Conservancy is in the sixth year of a research partnership with Oklahoma State University to investigate "patch-burning" with cattle. Results thus far are very encouraging: increased heterogeneity and biodiversity can be realized with little or no decrease in livestock production.

Online Link(s):
Link to this document (5.5 MB; pdf)
Hamilton, Robert G. 2007. Restoring heterogeneity on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: applying the fire-grazing interaction model. Pages 163-169. In Masters, Ronald E.; Galley. Krista E. M. (eds.). Proceedings of the 23rd Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference: Fire in Grassland and Shrubland Ecosystems. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station.