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Prescribed Extreme Fire Effects on Richness and Invasion in Coastal Prairie

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Dirac Twidwell*
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843
William E. Rogers
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843
Elizabeth A. McMahon
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843
Bryce R. Thomas
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843
Urs P. Kreuter
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843
Terry L. Blankenship
Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation, Sinton, TX 78387
Current address of first author: Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078. Corresponding author's E-mail:


Widely-held, untested assumptions in many prairies are that high-intensity fires conducted during droughts will decrease native herbaceous species richness and lead to rapid invasions by alien species. We compared native and exotic herbaceous species richness and aboveground herbaceous biomass one year following the application of high-intensity growing-season fires in Texas coastal prairie. Fires were conducted in June 2008, when precipitation was 96% below the long-term monthly average, at the end of a severe 5-mo drought, resulting in high fire intensities within treatment units. Native forb species richness was greater in burned than unburned areas. In contrast, species richness of native grasses, exotic forbs, and the frequency of King Ranch (KR) bluestem [Bothriochloa ischaemum (L.) Keng.] did not significantly differ between burned and unburned treatments. The potential to use prescribed extreme fire to maintain native herbaceous species richness while not increasing KR bluestem provides preliminary evidence that growing season fires conducted during droughts can be a viable management strategy in coastal prairies.

Copyright © Weed Science Society of America 

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