Fire Science Round-Up: Fall 2015

We endeavor to supplement our usual science summaries with brief summaries of fire science relevant to our region. We invite you to supplement our searches by sending us citations for works we should include in the next Round-up.

Written by Kristen Kohlhepp

Vegetation

Craine, J. M. and E. G. Towne. 2010. High leaf tissue density grassland species consistently more abundant across topographic and disturbance contrasts in a North American tallgrass prairie. Plant Soil 337: 193-203.

Plants with high tissue density were consistently more abundant across ecological contrasts. The correlation between leaf tissue density and abundance implies that belowground resource availability restricts community composition independent of burning and grazing.

Jhariya, M. K. and A. Raj. 2014. Effects of wildfires on flora, fauna and physico-chemical properties of soil-An overview. Journal of Applied and Natural Science 6: 887-897.

Fire is a natural ecological disturbance; this review article provides an overview of the effects wildfire has on flora, forests, shrubs, ground vegetation, wild animals, and soil properties.

King, C. B. and R.M. Muzika. 2014. Historic fire and canopy disturbance dynamics in an oak-pine (Quercus-Pinus) forest of the Missouri Ozarks (1624-2010). Castanea 79: 78-87.

The average growth release for both species was six years with the earliest release occurring in 1645. Growth releases were asynchronous indicating individual tree responses to small gap formation in the forest.

Prach, K., K. Fajmon, I. Jongepierová, and K. Rehounková. 2015. Landscape context in colonization of restored dry grasslands by target species. Applied Vegetation Science 18: 181-189.

Forty percent of unsown target species established spontaneously at restored sites. The best predictor of occurrence seemed to be the number of target species in the surrounding quadrants.

Ruprecht, E., A. Fenesi, E. I. Fodor, T. Kuhn, and J. Tökölyi. 2015. Shape determines fire tolerance of seeds in temperate grasslands that are not prone to fire. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. Article in press.

Seed shape is the main factor explaining fire tolerance in grasslands. Round seeds showed a higher fire tolerance than flat or elongated seeds.   

Entomology

Branson, D. H., A. Joern, and G. A. Sword. 2006. Sustainable management of insect herbivores in grassland ecosystems: new perspectives in grasshopper control. BioScience 56: 1-13.

Currently grasshopper and Mormon cricket outbreaks are controlled using insecticides, resulting in the death of species other than the target species. Fire and grazing are strong contenders as a preventative pest tactic.

Wildlife

Anderson, L. C., L. A. Powell, W. H. Schacht, J. L. Lusk, and W. L. Vodehnal. 2015. Greater prairie-chicken brood-site selection and survival in the Nebraska Sandhills. The Journal of Wildlife Management 79: 559-569.

The primary drivers in the selection of sites were related to vegetation structure. Hens preferred to nest on the sands-sandy complex in upland sites. Vegetation did not affect brood survival rates; exposure to elements was the critical component to mortality risk of chicks.

Grundel, R., D. A. Beamer, G. A. Glowacki, K. J. Frohnapple, and N. B. Pavlovic. 2015. Opposing responses to ecological gradients structure amphibian and reptile communities across a temperate grassland-savanna-forest landscape. Biodiversity Conservation 24: 1089-1108.

Vegetation, land cover, and fire history accounted for approximately half of the variation observed in herpetofaunal communities across an ecological gradient. Higher reptile abundance was observed in open habitats whereas higher amphibian abundance was observed in forest habitats. Savanna habitats supported the most species overall.

Hovick, T. J., R. D. Elmore, S. D. Fuhlendorf, D. M. Engle, and R. G. Hamilton. 2015. Spatial heterogeneity increases diversity and stability in grassland bird communities. Ecological Applications 25: 662-672.

Bird diversity and abundance are strongly correlated with increased heterogeneity. Heterogeneity increased bird community stability at fine and landscape scales. Increasing grazing- and fire-dependent heterogeneity can result in increased diversity and stability.

Lyons, T. P., J. R. Miller, D. M. Debinski, and D. M. Engle. 2015. Predator identity influences the effect of habitat management on nest predation. Ecological Applications 25: 1596-1605.

Nest predation by mammals and snakes increased with greater amounts of litter cover and tall fescue. Nest predation by snakes was lower in burned regions and predation by mammals was lower with greater forb cover.

Méró, T. O., L. Lontay, and S. Lengyel. 2015. Habitat management varying in space and time: the effects of grazing and fire management on marshland birds. Journal of Ornithlogy 156: 579-590.

Non-managed patches had fewer species than burned and grazed patches, with the exception of reed songbirds. Species richness was greater in grazed patches for farmland songbirds. Species richness of non-passerines was greater in burned patches.

Raynor, E. J., A. Joern, and J. M. Briggs. 2015. Bison foraging responds to fire frequency in nutritionally heterogeneous grassland. Ecology 96: 1586-1597.

Variation in fire frequency plays a large role in understanding seasonal changes in large-herbivore foraging behavior. Bite mass and intake rate increased with increasing biomass on recently burned sites that had gone several years without burning.

Soil

Kennedy, N. M., S. J. Robertson, D. S. Green, S. R. Scholefield, J. M. Arocena, L. E. Tackaberry, H. B. Massicotte, and K. N. Egger. 2015. Site properties have a stronger influence than fire severity on ectomycorrhizal fungi and associated N-cycling bacteria in regenerating post-beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests. Folia Microbiologica 60: 399-410.

Wet and dry soil had different soil chemistries; wet soil had higher values than dry, except for pH and percent sand. Fire severity did not affect the soil chemistry or ectomycorrhizal fungi.

McGranahan, D. A., A. L. Daigh, J. J. Veenstra, D. M. Engle, J. R. Miller, and D. M. Debinski. 2014. Connecting soil organic carbon and root biomass with land-use and vegetation in temperate grasslands. The Scientific World Journal 2014: 1-9.

Although the relationship is not straightforward, vegetation, land-use management, and soil properties interact to affect soil carbon and root biomass stocks. Rangeland soils are important carbon pools but it is unlikely that rangeland plant communities can be categorized by carbon sequestration without considering biotic and abiotic factors.

Fire Prevention

Abt, K. L., D. T. Butry, J. P. Prestemon, and S. Scranton. 2015. Effect of fire prevention programs on accidental and incendiary wildfires on tribal lands in the United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire 24: 749-762.

Prevention programs led to a decrease in wildfires caused by campfires, minors, escaped burning debris, and equipment. Increased law enforcement also led to a decrease in incendiary and equipment caused wildfires.