Effects of Burning and Grazing on a Coastal California Grassland


  Address correspondence to email jwbart@nature.berkeley.edu


We tested the effects of fall burning and protection from livestock grazing as management to enhance native grasses on a coastal grassland in central California. Plants from the Mediterranean, introduced beginning in the late 1700s, have invaded and now dominate most of California's grasslands. Coastal grasslands are generally less degraded than those inland and have higher potential for restoration and conservation. Productivity of the experimental plots varied annually and declined over the course of the study because of rainfall patterns. Foliar cover of the native Danthonia californica (California oatgrass) increased more under grazing than grazing exclusion and did not respond to burning. Two other natives, Nassella pulchra (purple needlegrass) and Nassella lepida (foothill needlegrass), responded variably to treatments. The response of N. pulchra differed from that reported on more inland sites in California. Restoring these grasslands is complicated by differing responses of target species to protection from grazing and burning. The current practice of managing to enhance single species of native plants (e.g., N. pulchra) may be detrimental to other equally important native species.