Fire Science Round-Up: Late 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.


Doherty, K .E., D. E. Naugle, J .D. Tack, B. L. Walker, J. M. Graham, and J. L. Beck. 2014. Linking conservation actions to demography: grass height explains variation in greater sage-grouse nest survival. Wildlife Biology 20:320-325.

Grass height is a strong predictor of nest survival. Increased hiding cover increases nest success. Managing grass height during drought may also be beneficial to sage-grouse populations.

Yeiser, J. M., D. L. Baxley, B .A. Robinson, and J. J. Morgan. 2014. Using prescribed fire and herbicide to manage rank native warm season grass for Northern Bobwhite. The Journal of Wildlife Management 79:69-76.

Plots treated with isopropylamine salt of imazapyr (ISI) or glyphosate resulted in favorable levels of forbs and native warm season grasses. Prescribed burning along with the application of ISI or glyphosate is recommended to produce favorable habitats for Northern Bobwhite.

Bock, C. E., Z. E. Jones, L. J. Kennedy, and J. H. Bock. 2011. Response of rodents to wildfire and livestock grazing in an Arizona desert grassland. American Midland Naturalist 166:126-138.

Rodents in the family Cricetidae declined following the fire and did not return for 6 years. Rodents in the family Heteromyidae increased following the fire, especially on ungrazed plots. Fire and grazing affected individual rodent species in ways that were generally consistent with their known habitat associations. 

Augustine, D. J. and J. D. Derner. 2015. Patch burn-grazing management in a semiarid grassland: consequences for pronghorn, plains prickly pear, and wind erosion. Rangeland Ecology and Management 68:40-47.

Pronghorn density was significantly greater in the winter on burned pastures. Long-term reductions in plains prickly pear density was observed due to a strong interaction between patch burns and pronghorn. Wind erosion rates were greater on burned patches.

Roberts, A. 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-specific shifts, associated with life-history traits and vegetation preferences, were observed in many of the avian communities following wildfire. Species that prefer sparse vegetation on short-grass sites benefited from fires, whereas species preferring more dense vegetation were negatively impacted. Avian communities appeared to return to pre-burn levels within three years.



Soong, J. L. and M. F. Cotrufo. 2015. Annual burning of a tallgrass prairie inhibits C and N cycling in soil, increasing recalcitrant pyrogenic organic matter storage while reducing N availability. Global Change Biology 21: 2321-2333.

The microbial decomposition of big bluestem litter released both carbon and nitrogen and transformed the litter material into low carbon-nitrogen soil organic matter. Pyrogenic organic matter added to soil organic matter was untransformed by microbial decomposition.



Alstad, A. O. and E. I. Damschen. 2015. Fire may mediate effects of landscape connectivity on plant community richness in prairie remnants. Ecography 38: 1-7.

Species richness was highest in large patches that had been managed with fire. There was a strong positive relationship between species richness and patch size, and a strong negative relationship between species richness and number of years since last fire.

Devine, A. P., I. Stott, R. A. McDonald, and I. M. D. Maclean. 2015. Woody cover in wet and dry African savannas after six decades of experimental fires. Journal of Ecology 103: 473-478.

Tree abundance was higher in burned plots than in unburned plots in the wet savanna, whereas there was little variation in abundance in the dry savanna plots. Presence of fire resulted in lower woody cover, however fire frequency had little effects on woody cover. The authors suggest that vegetation responses to fire are dependent on local conditions, such as rainfall, and management strategies should take into account whether a savanna is a wet or dry system.

Russell, M. L., L. T. Vermeire, A. C. Ganguli, and J. R. Hendrickson. 2015. Season of fire manipulates bud bank dynamics in northern mixed-grass prairie. Plant Ecology 216:835-846.

Bud bank dynamics differed amongst species tested. The season of fire directly manipulated bud activity, dormancy, and mortality. Active and dormant bud abundance following seasonal prescribed burns differed for each species and short-term seasonal fluxes in bud dormancy, bud activity, and bud mortality varied according to the season of burning.

Munson, S. M., A. L. Long, C. Decker, K. A. Johnson, K. Walsh, and M. E. Miller. 2015. Repeated landscape-scale treatments following fire suppress a non-native annual grass and promote recovery of native perennial vegetation. Biological Invasions 17:1915-1926.

Post-fire herbicide and seeding treatment efficiency was strongly influenced by water availability, soil texture, climate, and topographic characteristics at the landscape-scale.  The most effective treatment to promote perennial seeded species cover was seeding them alone followed by herbicide application 3 years later.



Roberts, K .W., D. M. Engle, and J.R. Weir. 1999. Weather constraints to scheduling prescribed burns. Rangelands 21:6-7.

The best burning period varied among different vegetation-climate types. Extreme wind speed was the primary weather constraint to prescribed burning.