Fire Science Round-Up: Summer 2015

Written by Kristen Kohlhepp

We 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.

Leadership

Waldron, A. and V. Ebbeck. 2015. The relationship of mindfulness and self-compassion to desired wildland fire leadership. International Journal of Wildland Fire. Published online, awaiting print.

Mindfulness and self-compassion are associated with wildland fire leadership especially competence. Important predictors in explaining variance in mindfulness included acting with awareness, describing with words, and observing. Differences in self-compassion were explained by self-kindness and isolation.

Soil

Vermeire, L. T., J. L. Crowder, and D. B. Wester. 2011. Plant community and soil environment response to summer fire in the northern Great Plains. Rangeland Ecology and Management 64:37-46.

Summer fire had minor effects on the soil environment. The greatest effects of summer fire were reductions in litter and nonnative annual grasses, and increases in C3 perennial grasses.

Vegetation

Veldman, J.W., E. Buisson, G. Durigan, G. W. Fernandes, S. L. Stradic, G. Mahy, D. Negreiros, G. E. Overbeck, R. G. Veldman, N. P. Zaloumis, F. E. Putz, and W. J. Bond. 2015. Toward an old-growth concept for grasslands, savannas, and woodlands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13:154-162.

The authors propose an old-growth grassland concept including ecological characteristics for identification. The concept of old growth grasslands may be useful for supporting grassland conservation.

Ansley R. J., B. A. Kramp, and D. L. Jones. 2015. Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) seedling responses to seasonal timing of fire and fireline intensity. Rangeland Ecology and Management 68:194-203.

Mid-grass and tall-grass fuel types had greater honey mesquite seed mortality in summer-burned compared to the winter-burned areas. A positive relationship between fireline intensity and seedling mortality was observed.

Strand, E. K., S. C. Bunting, and R. E. Keefe. 2013. Influence of wildland fire along a successional gradient in sagebrush steppe and western juniper woodlands. Rangeland Ecology and Management 66:667-679.

Sagebrush patches and woodlands in late structural development phases incurred greater burn severity than steppe and young woodland. The authors suggest that there seems to be a threshold for when juniper-encroached sagebrush steppe becomes difficult to restore.

Ohrtman, M. K., S. A. Clay, A. J. Smart. 2015. Surface temperatures and durations associated with spring prescribed fires in eastern South Dakota tallgrass prairies. The American Midland Naturalist 173:88-98.

Lethal heat duration at the surface was longer in plots with biennial than annual fire. Simulated grazing increased residence time of lethal temperatures in biennial plots and reduced duration in annual plots, due to a greater fuel load in biennial plots. Soil temperatures were not affected by surface heat.

Batllori, E., D. D. Acherly, and M. A. Moritz. 2015. A minimal model of fire-vegetation feedbacks and disturbance stochasticity generates alternative stable states in grassland-shrubland-woodland systems. Environmental Research Letters 10:1-10.

This theoretical investigation looked at the relative influence of extrinsic and intrinsic factors on disturbance and vegetation dynamics. High rates of vegetation succession, low flammability, and low severity promoted static systems dominated by woodlands. High fire frequencies lead to a single stable state dominated by grasslands.

Vermeire, L. T., J. L. Crowder, and D. B. Wester. 2014. Semiarid rangeland is resilient to summer fire and postfire grazing utilization. Rangeland Ecology and Management 67:52-60.

Biomass was more responsive to climate than fire and grazing. Fire and grazing independently increased grass productivity, however the combined disturbances reduced forbs, annual grasses, and litter. Grazing up to 50% biomass removal the first growing season after summer fire was not detrimental to the productivity of semiarid rangeland plant communities.

Guedo, D. D. and E. G. Lamb. 2013. Prescribed burning has limited long-term effectiveness in controlling Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) encroachment into fescue grassland in Prince Albert National Park. The Canadian Field Naturalist 127:50-56.

Short-term prescribed burns were not effective at controlling Trembling Aspen encroachment into the fescue grasslands. Trembling Aspen density increased with spring burns due to increased soil water content and increased temperature.

Trauernicht, C., B. W. Brook, B. P. Murphy, G. J. Williamson, and D. M. J. S. Bowman. 2015. Local and global pyrogeographic evidence that indigenous fire management creates pyrodiversity. Ecology and Evolution 5:1908-1918.

This Austrailian study focuses on the how traditional fire management shapes fire-prone ecosystems, specifically patches of Callitris intratropica. Small fires resulted in patchier landscapes, increased maximum habitat patch age, maximized fire-return time, and maximized Shannon’s index of overall patch diversity. Callitrus intratropica required long-unburnt habitat to persist.

Flory, S. L., K. Clay, S. M. Emery, J. R. Robb, and B. Winters. 2015. Fire and non-native grass invasion interact to suppress tree regeneration in temperate deciduous forests. Journal of Applied Ecology 1-9. (early view)

Fire-invasive grass interactions can increase fire intensity by greater fire temperatures, longer durations, and increased flame heights. Invasive plant biomass did not change in burned sites whereas invader biomass declined in unburned sites, suggesting a positive invasive grass-fire feedback. Oak Woodlands & Forest Fire Consortium have created a Japanese stiltgrass video channel that goes hand-in-hand with this paper, the video channel can be accessed with the following link: https://vimeo.com/channels/698894.

Wildlife

Hovick, T. J., R. D. Elmore, S. D. Fuhlendorf, and D. K. Dahlgren. 2015. Weather constrains the influence of fire and grazing on nesting greater prairie-chickens. Rangeland Ecology and Management 68:186-193.

Adult greater prairie-chicken survival was observed in areas that had not recently been burned or grazed. The birds avoided nesting in areas with a great amount of tree cover, suggesting that they do require some disturbance to reduce woody vegetation for nesting cover. Local weather was the most influential on nest survival.

A. Madison, T. G. Barnes, and J. D. Sole. 1995. Improving northern bobwhite brood rearing habitat in tall fescue dominated fields. Annual Conference of The Southeastern Association of Wildlife and Fisheries Agency 49:525-536.

Fields dominated by tall fescue provide a poor habitat, as well as poor quality brood rearing sites for the northern bobwhite quail. The effectiveness of controlled burning, disking, and the use of herbicide application to improve quail habitat was measured. They suggest a direct relationship between high brood rearing habitat and increased invertebrate abundance. The most effective method varied year-to-year.

Pillsbury, F. C., J. R. Miller, D. M. Debinksi, and D.M. Engle. 2011. Another tool in the toolbox? Using fire and grazing to promote bird diversity in highly fragmented landscapes. Ecosphere 2:1-14.  

This study treated grasslands with either spatially discrete fires and free access by cattle, free access by cattle and a single complete burn, or a single complete burn with no cattle. Differences in community structure were correlated with visual obstructions and hedging, suggesting bird communities are differentiated by structural habitat and landscape fragmentation.

Swengel, A. B. and S. R. Swengel. 2013. Decline of Hesperia ottoe (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) in northern tallgrass prairie preserves. Insects 4:663-682.

The Ottoe skipper was observed in dry and sand prairie types and was more prevalent in discontinuous sod. Small sites had a larger abundance of skippers than medium and large sites. The Ottoe skipper was also more abundant in burned sites rather than grazed sites.