Fire Science Round-up Spring 2015

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

Fire Science Round-up

Spring 2015

Written by Kristen Kohlhepp


Li, W., X. Zuo, and J. M. H. Knops. 2013. Different fire frequency impacts over 27 years on vegetation succession in an infertile old-field grassland. Rangeland Ecology and Management 66:267-273.

Little bluestem did not change in biomass with fire frequency over time, Kentucky bluegrass decreased with increasing fire frequency, and bush clover increased with more frequent fire. Species richness and litter mass decreased with increasing fire frequency.

Limb, R.F., S. D. Fuhlendorf, D.M. Engle, and J. D. Kerby. 2011. Growing-season disturbance in tallgrass prarie: evaluating fire and grazing on Schizachyrium scoparium. Rangeland Ecology and Management 64:28-36.

In the field little bluestem canopy cover and plant community were unaffected by different burning seasons. Greenhouse experiments revealed that survival is dependent primarily on plant age. Both aboveground regrowth and below ground biomass increased with burning, but clipping reduced regrowth.

Palmquist, K. A., R. K. Peet, and A. S. Weakley. 2014. Changes in plant species richness following reduced fire frequency and drought in one of the most species-rich savannas in North America. Journal of Vegetation Science 25:1426-1437.

Small-scale species richness and species frequency significantly declined from the 1980s to 2011, due to drought and reduced prescribed burns. Small herbaceous species were particularly sparse, only increasing slightly after wetter years. This significant decline was likely due to the reduction of fire frequency in concurrence with the drought, since this severity has not been observed in other savannas.

Scasta, J. D., D. M. Engle, R. N. Harr, and D. M. Debinksi. 2014. Fire induced reproductive mechanisms ofSymphoricarpos (Caprifoliaceae) shrub after dormant season burning. Botanical Studies 55:80.

Buckbrush is tolerant to low-intensity prescribed burns during the late dormant season or early spring. The shrubs quickly regenerated using the mechanisms of basal sprouting and aerial layering. No mortalities were observed.

Veach, A. M., W. K. Dodds, and A. Skibbe. 2014. Fire and grazing influences on rates of riparian woody plant expansion along grassland streams. PLoS ONE 9:341-345.

Riparian woody encroachment rates increased as burning became less frequent, however a higher fire frequency did not reverse the encroachment. Burns every 1-2 years will slow forestation of tallgrass prairie stream ecosystems.



Wenjin, L., J. M. H. Knops, X. Zuo, and R. Laungani. 2014. Carbon and nitrogen cycling are resistant to fire in nutrient-poor grassland. Soil Science Society of American Journal 78:825-831.

Fire in nutrient-poor and low-productivity old field grasslands did not have any effect on nitrogen cycling or net primary productivity. Fire frequency did not affect ecosystem carbon or nitrogen pools, and the soil carbon was accumulating at 28 times the rate of nitrogen accumulation for 10 out of 27 years.

Urbanek, Emilia. 2013. Why are aggregates destroyed in low intensity fires? Plant Soil 362:33-36.

It is suggested that during rapid heating of moist soil aggregates, intra-aggregate water is vaporized and the increased pressure causes a rupture of the internal bonds leading to aggregate breakdown. Prescribed fires should be conducted at low soil water contents in order to reduce the effect of rapid heating disintegration of aggregates.

White, Carleton S. 2011. Homogenization of the soil surface following fire in semiarid grasslands. Rangeland Ecology and Management 64:414-418.

Significantly lower soil microtopographic variation persisted for up to 4 years following 4 out of the 5 fires. Soil leveling was lowest in grasslands with clay-rich soils, indicating a possible soil texture interaction.


Fire History

Stambaugh, M. C., J. C. Sparks, and E. R. Abadir. 2014. Historical pyrogeography of Texas, USA. Fire Ecology 10:72-85.

This is a literature review and spatial analysis over the 11 natural subregions of Texas. The majority of Texas consisted of frequent fire regimes. There was a gradient of decreasing fire return intervals from west to east.



Larson, Danelle M. 2014. Grassland fire and cattle grazing regulate reptile and amphibian assembly among patches. Environmental Management 54:1434-1444.

Reptile occupancy was seasonally consistent in control patches and declined in patches following grazing and fire; smaller reptiles remained in the disturbed patches. Amphibian occupancy did not change with treatments.


Wildland-Urban transition zone

Elia, M., R. Lafortezza, G. Colagelo, and G. Sanesi. 2014. A streamlined approach for spatial allocation of fuel removals in wildland-urban interfaces. Landscape Ecology 29:1771-1784.

The Spatial Allocation Index was designed to determine where and what types of forest areas may be suitable for fuel removal in wildland-urban interfaces. It identifies areas where wildland fires might affect dwellings near urban areas. Areas reaching the maximum value are those that have the highest priority in terms of fuel removal.