Project no. Fp6-018505 Project Acronym fire paradox

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Project no. FP6-018505

Project Acronym FIRE PARADOX

Project Title FIRE PARADOX: An Innovative Approach of Integrated Wildland Fire Management Regulating the Wildfire Problem by the Wise Use of Fire: Solving the Fire Paradox

Instrument Integrated Project (IP)

Thematic Priority Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems

Deliverable 3.5-2-40

Relationship between fire and grazing

Assessing relationships among fire-herbivory and man-modified vegetation types in the Chaco region of Argentina”.

Due date of deliverable: Month 40

Actual submission date: Month 38

Start date of project: 1st March 2006 Duration: 48months

Organisation name of lead contractor for this deliverable: INTA (P33)

Revision (1000)

Project co-funded by the European Commission within the Sixth Framework Programme (2002-2006)

Dissemination Level





Restricted to other programme participants (including the Commission Services)


Restricted to a group specified by the consortium (including the Commission Services)


Confidential, only for members of the consortium (including the Commission Services)


Carlos Kunst (P33: INTA)

Roxana Ledesma (P33: INTA)

Pablo Tomsic (P33: INTA)

Sandra Bravo (P33: INTA)

Ada Albanesi (P33: INTA)

Analia Anriquez (P33: INTA)

Luciano Lorea (P33: INTA)

Marta Leiva (P33: INTA)
Executive summary

Originally, WP 3.5 was proposed because it addresses a well known fact: the interaction between livestock grazing and fire: the aboveground plant biomass eaten by livestock is not longer available for wildfires. Either lack of grazing or presence of grazing produces a change in the fire regime. So grazing is a disturbance that may be negatively related to fire. Specifically, grazing and grazing management are related to 2 of the four pillars of the fire paradox: wildfire initiation and wildfire propagation. Grazing could be seen as alternative to prescribed burning in sensitive areas. However, since several vegetation types need fire and fire keeps the equilibrium toward grass, grazing should be managed so there is enough fuel to keep the balance among plant types, specially brush-trees and grasses. When INTA became a member of the Fire Paradox Project, research in fire-grass-shrub relationships were addressed by research activities within the INTA Specific Project PNCAR 1503, ‘Range Improvement’ (2006-2009) that are continued with the Specific Project 263051 ‘Range Improvement Techniques (2009-2011). These activities are related to the use of fire to keep the balance among plant types, i. e. prescribed burning.

Specific points related to research in the prescribed fire-livestock grazing interaction are:

  • burn rotation time, related to the fuel load and grazing management, since fuel and forage are the same thing;

  • season of burning, related to fire effects in soils and vegetation; and

  • fire effects on shrubs and trees.

These points were addressed using the following approaches in the deliverable 3.5.2:

    1. Developing and supporting field experiments,

    2. Prescribed burns in private ranches

    3. Literature review.

In the following table objectives, aspects and activities of the Deliverable are presented so the relationships among them are clear:






To determine the relationship between fire and different vegetation types (savanna in Central and Southern Africa, degraded and man-treated in Chaco) with regard to biomass, age, wildlife and domestic herbivory, climate and season of burn.

Grazing and fire effects on shrubs and trees.

Literature review Developing and supporting field experiments


To quantify the fire –tree, shrub and grass species relationships in these vegetation types

Burn rotation time, related to the fuel load and grazing management, since fuel and forage are the same thing; season of burning, related to fire effects in soils and vegetation

Literature review

Prescribed burns in private ranches


To check about similarities between the southern and northern hemispheres in the above matters.

Literature review

  1. Developing and supporting field experiments:

The paucity of field research in the interactive effects of fire and grazing could be attributed to the practical limitations and design complexity of implementing factorial field experiments. This obstacle was removed since the Santiago del Estero Experimental Station specifically set aside Paddock No 7 (size 500 ha) of the ‘La Maria’ Experimental Station for research purposes related to fire and Fire Paradox (28º 03’ S y 64º 15’ 0). This paddock (Fig. 1) was fenced with funds of the project to avoid unplanned grazing. Al research activities took place in that paddock.

Fire Paradox through WP 3.4 gave specific support to these two ungoing research activities:

  1. Effect of fire on the dynamics of shrubs and grass species. The objective of this experiment, started in 2005, is to assess the recruitment of grass and shrub individuals in an ecotonal grassland after a late season fire. Two treatments: control and fire were applied at random in plots size 10 m x 15 m, in 3 replications. New plots were burned in 2006 and 2007, and plant germination and recruitment were monitored during 3 growth seasons after the fire, until 2009. Data of the 2005 trial was the base of a masters thesis, and data from the 2006-2009 and 2007-2010 trials are being processed.

  2. Grazing and fire gradients in La Rioja. As a request of INTA La Rioja Experimental Station, two gradients of fire and grazing along a 70 km transects were assessed in the La Rioja Plains, using dendochronology, grass standing crop, botanical composition and assessment of soil features such as Total Organic Nitrogen, Total Organic Carbon and some soil microorganisms groups. Cross sections of Prosopis pugionata and Aspidosperma quebracho blanco of different heights from the grounds were used to estimate fire frequency and fire damage. Cross sections are being processed. Preliminary results of soil features suggest that both fire and grazing may affect soil properties (Fig. 2).

The information gathered in the activities a and b is being processed.

2. Prescribed burns in private ranches.

The years 2008 and 2009 were of late rains. Only two prescribed burns in private ranches were performed: the ‘Picat’ Ranch (Catamarca Province) and the ‘Toro Negro’ Ranch (Santiago del Estero).

2.1 Picat Ranch. The objective of the burn was to assess the fire interval needed to reduce the canopy of woody species, benefit grazing and to compare fire with mechanical treatments. Density of woody species was assessed by the T-square method. Grass standing crop was assessed by clipping 10 quadrats size = ¼ m2 randomly located. In Annex 1 of this report it is presented a detailed description of the burn. This burn was also used for training purposes (see WP 9).

2.2 Toro Negro Ranch. Objectives of this burn were: (a) to assess the use of fire in the disposal of woody residues in roller chopper native pastures, and (b) to assess burn rotation time in order to maintain improvements such as accesibility. Density of woody species was assessed by the T-square method. Grass standing crop was assessed by clipping 5 quadrats size = ¼ m2 located in 5 transects. In Annex 2 of this report it is presented a detailed description of the burn. This burn was also used for training purposes (see WP 9).

Other two prescribed burns targeted to paddocks 7 and 12 of the Experimental Ranch had to be postponed to 2010 due to lack of appropriate weather conditions. Only blacklines were burned in the Paddock 12 (Fig. 3).

  1. Literature review 1

Part 1.

Relationship between fire and grazing:

Historical aspects determining the relationship between fire, herbivory and vegetation types in the argentine Chaco, South America.



2.1 Location

2.2 Climate and Relief

2.3 Vegetation

2.4 Singularities of the Chaco

2.4.1 Scarcity of Large Herbivores

2.4.2 Ants

2.4.3 Events of severe defoliation by insects

2.4.4 Primitive vegetation


3.1 Fire-man relationships

3.2 The aboriginal presence in the Chaco Region

3.3 Fire use by the aborigines of the Chaco

3.4 Fire as an ecological factor in the Chaco Region


4.1 Changes process

4.2 Fire




Human activities in the Argentinean Chaco Region developed similarly to what happened in other regions of the planet and despite being a quite special environment human activity effects on it show characteristics that are common to similar environment located in other continents.

The Argentinean Great Chaco shares the same characteristics with Australia, Africa and the rest of America regarding the development of the natural resources exploitation by man.

Exception made of the Inca and Azteca Civilizations, the inhabitants of these lands before the European colonization possessed a life style that identifies itself with the landscape; the use of the resources was compatible with their technologies and, in turn, these consistent with the awareness of their needs. They were peoples adhered and enchained to nature, dependent on their resources and varying their habits in accordance with them (Romero, J. L., 2004). By the time Europeans discovered America, such a life style adhered to nature had been abandoned and certainly forgotten several centuries ago.

Europeans (the Spaniards) arrived to America in early 16th Century. As much as the humanistic thought and the painting of that time of History, the Conquest is signaled by the Renaissance (Romero, J. L., 2004) as well. In this case, the Renaissance sign is made apparent when the European natural resources utilization practices started being applied in America. Agriculture and livestock are samples of such practices.

Along with the Discovery, colonization came and together with it the importation of European technologies meeting Old World needs accelerating and intensifying thus the use of American natural resources. A process that otherwise might either have taken decades of centuries to evolve or never occurred because of the original dwellers of these lands was implanted and spread in less than five centuries. FIRE was one of such tools involved in the process.

In the Chaco, native peoples recognized fire as a natural event and as a tool for controlling the environment before the conquest. Their knowledge on and use of fire as well as its utilization by the conquerors and by the settlers afterwards kept recorded in narratives and chronicles by militaries, travelers and naturalists that walked along these Chaco lands.

What did they use fire for? What did they get from it? What were the effects on the environment? What was the relation between fire and livestock developed by settlers later on? What are the consequences of such activities nowadays?

This report is a bibliographic compilation of papers by known authors from various sciences, ordered in such a way that its narration allows for the sketching of responses to these questionings and the understanding of fire, grazing and their mutual interaction through the process of Chaco natural resources utilization, essentially the effect of these factors upon vegetation.

This report consists of three sections that in order to receive and attest the concepts mentioned before, are enriched by citing historic documents related to the exploration of the Chaco territory:

Characteristics of the Chaco

A description is made of the Chaco and of the landscape the colonizers found

The Man, the Fire, and the Chaco Vegetation

The man-fire-vegetation relationship is analyzed under general ideas and hypotheses about these relationships referred to the Chaco; the fire ecological character in this region is described.

The state of the art of the vegetation, the herbivory and the fire

The modifications of this interaction in time and the state of the art of the Chaco resources after five centuries of changes in their use are described.
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