Season and Intensity of Burning on Two Grass Species of the Chihuahuan Desert

Miguel Luna, Carlton M. Britton, Sandra Rideout-Hanzak, Carlos Villalobos, Ronald E. Sosebeex, David B. Wester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigated effects of three burning seasons under two simulated fuel loads on plant mortality and basal area of small and large blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis [H.B.K.] Lag) and broomgrass muhly (Muhlenbergia rigida [H.B.K.] Lag) plants in the southern Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico. We simulated prescribed fire with a portable propane burner calibrated to match time and temperature curves reached at 1 700 kg · ha-1 and 2 800 kg · ha-1 fine fuel loads. Large (initial basal area > 10 cm2) and small (initial basal area ≤ 10 cm2) plants were used. For each species, we randomly treated 50 plants in each size class each season at each fuel load; 50 control plants of each species and size received no fire treatment. We estimated basal area change from measurements recorded photographically. Blue grama mortality was affected by season of burning, simulated fuel load, and plant size. Small blue grama plants had higher mortality than large plants. Burning at the high fuel load in winter increased basal area of large blue grama plants; in contrast, basal area was not affected by summer burning, and was reduced by spring burning with high fuel load. Basal area of broomgrass muhly plants was reduced by summer and winter burning and these responses were independent of fuel load and plant size. Our results suggest that winter is the most suitable season for prescription burning to improve southern Chihuahuan Desert grasslands: prescribed fire during this time reduced basal area of broomgrass muhly plants, had the highest mortality on broomgrass muhly, had a positive effect on basal area of small blue grama plants, and had no effect on basal area of large blue grama plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-620
Number of pages7
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Volume67
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2014

Keywords

  • basal area
  • blue grama
  • broomgrass muhly
  • fire simulation
  • mortality
  • plant size

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