Science Round-up Winter 2015

We will endeavor to supplement our usual science summaries with brief summaries of fire science relevant to the region that we learn about.  It’s challenging to sift through the amount of work being published, so 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
Winter 2014/15
Written by Kristen Kohlhepp

Augustine, David J. and Skagen, Susan K. 2014. Mountain Plover Nest Survival in Relation to Prairie Dog and Fire Dynamics in Shortgrass Steppe. The Journal of Wildlife Management 78:595-602.
Mountain plover densities were similar across recently burned areas and black-tailed prairie dog breeding sites; nest survival rates were greater in prairie dog breeding areas. In areas where plague had struck prairie dogs, mountain plover populations continued to breed for another 2-3 years. Mountain plovers avoided nesting in sites that were unburned, ≥2-years since burn, or areas without prairie dog colonies.

Radke, Nikki J., D. B. Western, G. Perry, and S. Rideout-Hanzak. 2008. Short-term effects of prescribed fire on lizards in mesquite-Ashe juniper vegetation in central Texas. Applied Herpetology 5:281-292.

Low intensity prescribed burns had no immediate effects on lizard densities, likely due to their habitat and prey densities remaining unaffected. Homoptera had reduced numbers post-burn.

Roberts, Anthony J., C. W. Boal, D. B. Wester, S. Rideout-Hanzak, and H. A. Whitlaw. 2012. Grassland bird community response to large wildfires. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 124:24-30.

Species, such as the Horned Lark, that prefer light vegetation in the short-grass sites benefited from wildfires. Species that prefer dense vegetation in the mixed-grass sites, such as the Western Meadowlark, were negatively impacted. Temporary species-specific shifts in the avian community composition, due to vegetation preferences, were observed post-burn.

Abella, Scott R. and Fornwalt, Paula J. 2014. Ten years of vegetation assembly after a North American mega-fire. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/gcb.12722.
Community resistance and resilience post-burn depended on burn severity; areas of low severity had a higher resilience than those of moderate and high severity burns to return to pre-fire state. Species richness was found to be higher in areas post-fire that were burned (severity did not matter). Plant cover decreased in the year immediately following the fire but increased to levels exceeding pre-fire coverage after five years.

Britton, Carlton A., S. Rideout-Hanzak, and S. D. Brown. 2010. Effects of burns conducted in summer and winter on vegetation of Matagorda Island, Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 55:193-202.
There was no difference in yield of grasses or forbs one year post-burn. Summer burns did significantly benefit specific species such as coastal mistflower, beach groundcherry, Fabaceae, and Cyperaceae after one to two years.

Pavlovic, Noel B., S. A. Leicht-Young, and R. Grundel. 2011. Short-term effects of burn season on flowering phenology of savanna plants. Plant Ecology 212:611-625.

Flowering stems or total number of flower species often declined post-burn. Burn season did affect the flowering; the previous fall and early-spring fires reduced early shrub flowering and flowering of mid-season blooming shrubs was reduced by early and growing-season burns. Burns occurring too frequently in the same season also had a negative effect on flowering.

Roy, Bitty A., K. Hudson, M. Visser, and B. R. Johnson. 2014. Grassland fires may favor native over introduced plants by reducing pathogen loads. Ecology 95: 1897-1906.
Prior to burn treatments, native plants had many more natural enemies than introduced plants. Prescribed burns reduced pathogens, especially for native species, however there was no change in herbivores.


Rideout-Hanzak, Sandra, D. B. Wester, G. Perry, and C. M. Britton. 2009. Echinocereus viridiflorus var viridiflorus mortality in shortgrass plains of Texas: observations following wildfire and drought. Haseltonia 15:102-107.

Total cactus density remained unaffected for burned and non-burned areas but the burned areas had a greater mortality rate. Cactus height and basal diameter in burned areas were lower than unburned areas.

Rideout-Hanzak, Sandra, D. B. Wester, C. M. Britton, and H. Whitlaw. 2011. Biomass not linked to perennial grass mortality following severe wildfire in the southern high plains. Rangeland Ecology and Management 64:47-55.
Perennial grass mortality was greater in burned areas than non-burned areas; mortality decreased in the years succeeding. Wildfire stimulated grass production, however no significant difference was observed between burned and non-burned areas for either current forb production or total forb production.

Wester, D. B., S. Rideout-Hanzak, C. M. Britton, and H. Whitlaw. 2014. Plant community response to the East Amarillo Complex wildfires in the Southern High Plains, USA. Community Ecology 15:222-234.
Wildfire effects on mean species composition were not significant after one year, stronger effects were observed two and three years after the EAC. Overall wildfire did not significantly alter species richness, however it did increase species diversity and evenness.