Effect of sheep grazing and fire on sage grouse populations in southeastern Idaho Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper describes the development, evaluation, and use of a model that simulates the effect of grazing and fire on temporal and spatial aspects of sagebrush community vegetation and sage grouse population dynamics. The model is represented mathematically as a discrete-time, stochastic compartment model based on difference equations with a time interval of 1 week. In the model, sheep graze through sage grouse breeding habitat during spring and fall, and different portions of the area can burn at different frequencies, creating a habitat mosaic of burned and unburned areas. The model was evaluated by examining predictions of (1) growth of sagebrush canopy cover after fire, (2) seasonal dynamics of grass and forb biomass under historical environmental conditions, and (3) sage grouse population dynamics associated with selected sagebrush canopy covers. Simulated changes in sagebrush canopy cover following fire correspond well with qualitative reports of long-term trends, simulated seasonal dynamics of herbaceous biomass correspond well with field data, and simulated responses of sage grouse population size and age structure to changing sagebrush canopy cover correspond well to qualitative field observations. Simulation results suggest that large fires occurring at high frequencies may lead to the extinction of sage grouse populations, whereas fires occurring at low frequencies may benefit sage grouse if burned areas are small and sheep grazing is absent. Sheep grazing may contribute to sage grouse population decline, but is unlikely to cause extinction under fire regimes that are favorable to sage grouse. 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Pedersen, E. K., Connelly, J. W., Hendrickson, J. R., & Grant, W. E.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Pedersen, EK||Connelly, JW||Hendrickson, JR||Grant, WE

publication date

  • July 2003