Fire Science Round-Up: Spring 2016

Written by Kristen Kohlhepp, Graduate Student Volunteer

Each quarter we endeavor to bring you a summary of research articles that are relevant to the Great Plains fire science community. We appreciate articles you send us to add to the next round-up. We also draw upon compilations of citations sent out monthly by Jason Greenlee of Current Titles in Wildland Fire.

Hydrology

Jackson, K. E., M. R. Whiles, W. K. Dodds, J. D. Reeve, J. M. Vandermyde, and H. M. Rantala. 2015. Patch-burn grazing effects on the ecological integrity of tallgrass prairie streams. Journal of Environmental Quality 44: 1148-1159.

Both benthic and particulate organic matter increased significantly in unfenced Patch Burn Grazed streams compared to control streams. Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera taxa decreased in unfenced streams. PBG adversely affects prairie streams, but riparian fencing can alleviate impacts.

West, A.L., C.B. Zou, E. Stebler, S.D. Fuhlendorf, B. Allred. 2016. Pyric-herbivory and hydrological responses in tallgrass prairie. Rangeland Ecology & Management 69:20-27.

Rainfall simulations indicated that surface runoff and sediment transport were greatest immediately after a burn but were short lived. Runoff depth was greatest in annually burned pastures as compared to the recently burned patch in patch burn grazed pastures. Above ground biomass best predicted sediment yield.

Vegetation

Havill, S., S. Schwinning, and K. G. Lyons. 2015. Fire effects on invasive and native warm-season grass species in a North American grassland at a time of extreme drought. Applied Vegetation Science 18: 637-649.

The invasive grass, yellow bluestem, was more sensitive to both fire and drought compared to the native species, little bluestem. Peak fire temperature in yellow bluestem was 100⁰ C higher than in little bluestem. There were no seasonal effects that maximized the difference in burn damage amongst the native and invasive C4 grasses.

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.

Season of fire directly manipulated bud activity, dormancy, and mortality for blue grama, needle-and-thread grass, and western wheatgrass. Spring burns increased active blue grama buds and fall burns immediately activated western wheatgrass buds. Needle-and-thread grass had reduced bud numbers in all seasons.

Strong, D. J., L. T. Vermeire, and A. C. Ganguli. 2013. Fire and nitrogen effects on purple threawn (Aristida purpurea) abundance in northern mixed-grass prairie old fields. Rangeland Ecology Management 66: 553-560.

Purple threeawn was reduced with wet and dry post-fire conditions; however, a greater reduction was observed with wet post-fire conditions. Nitrogen additions had no effect on purple threeawn biomass. The authors suggest that prescribed fire is a reliable tool to reduce purple threeawn without severely impacting nontarget species.

Towne, E.G. and J.M. Craine. 2016. A critical examination of timing of burning in the Kansas Flint Hills. Rangeland Ecology & Management 69:28-34.

Authors described flaws and limitations in the historical research that led to the current recommendations for fire timing in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

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.

There were weak immediate impacts from wildfire and strong impacts by 3 years post-fire. Burned areas had greater diversity, greater evenness, and less variability than unburned areas 3 years post-fire.  

Social Media

Bombaci, S. P., C. M. Farr, H. T. Gallo, A. M. Mangan, L. T. Stinson, M. Kaushik, and L. Pejchar. 2015. Using Twitter to communicate conservation science from a professional conference. Conservation Biology 30: 216-225.

Twitter can promote scholarly discussion, disseminate research rapidly, and extend research to audiences not present at conferences. The groups reached were often not the presenters' intended audiences. The authors recommend that presenters provide twitter-friendly summaries that incorporate relevant hashtags to communicate more accurately.

Simulation

Bachelet, D., J. M. Lenihan, C. Daly, and R. P. Neilson. 2000. Interactions between fire, grazing and climate change at Wind Cave National Park, SD. Ecological Modelling 134: 229-244.

Simulation of warmer conditions produced a large increase in the extent of woodlands. Simulation of increased drought conditions limited forest expansion, killed grasses, and increased fuel loads.

Kral, K. C., R. F. Limb, T. J. Hovick, D. A. McGranahan, A. L. Field, and P. L. O’Brien. 2015. Simulating grassland prescribed fires using experimental approaches. Fire Ecology 11:34-44.

Burn tables and propane prongs provided the closest simulation to prescribed fire. Prescribed fires, burn boxes, and burn tables had similar time-temperature curves and cooled slowly whereas the propane prongs stabilized at hotter temperatures. The authors suggest that any of these experimental approaches can be used to determine plant and soil responses to fire.

Smoke

Rice, S. A. and S. L. Ross. 2013. Smoke-induced germination in Phacelia strictaflora. Oklahoma Native Plant Record 13: 48-54.

Half to quarter strength smoke suspension greatly enhanced seed germination in the laboratory. This was the first study to show that Phacelia strictaflora can germinate with smoke. Phacelia strictaflora is the only known native Oklahoma plant species to germinate in the presence of smoke.

Fire Behavior

Clements, C. B., S. Zhong, X. Bian, W. E. Heilman, and D. W. Byun. 2008. First observations of turbulence generated by grass fires. Journal of Geophysical Research 113: 1-13.

Turbulence generated by grass fires was five times greater than turbulence in the surrounding areas. Turbulence at the fire front was caused by increased variance in wind.

Wildlife

Wilsey, B. J. and L. M. Martin. 2015. Top-down control of rare species abundances by native ungulates in a grassland restoration. Restoration Ecology 23: 465-472.

Grazed plots had higher diversity, lower biomass, and lower litter buildup than non grazed plots. Moderate large ungulate grazing may be useful to maintain species richness in grass-dominated prairies.

Entomology

Rocha, E. A., F. A. Luz, D. O. Rossato, and C. Millán. 2015. Does fire disturbance change insect composition and the frequency of darker phenotypes in a grassland community? Brazilian Journal of Biosciences 13: 219-223.

Color morphologies were significantly different between burned and unburned plots, with burned plots having darker individuals. The change in the dominant phenotype is likely due to differential selection imposed by predators.