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Prescribed burning to affect a state transition in a shrub-encroached desert grassland
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Prescribed burning is a commonly advocated and historical practice for control of woody species encroachment into grasslands on all continents. However, desert grasslands of the southwestern United States often lack needed herbaceous fuel loads for effective prescriptions, dominant perennial graminoids may have poor fire tolerance, and some systems contain fire-tolerant invasive species. We examined long term vegetation responses of black grama grassland that had been invaded by honey mesquite following a single prescribed burn. Vegetation responses to a 1995 prescribed burn were evaluated in a replicated randomized complete block design with a 2x2 factorial treatment structure. Treatments were prescribed burning and livestock exclusion for both a grassland-dominated and a shrub-encroached grassland state within a complex of sandy and shallow sandy ecological sites. Vegetation responses were measured in 2008, 13 years after the burn treatment application. Neither black grama basal cover not honey mesquite canopy cover were responsive (P<0.05) to any treatment. A single prescribed burn would be ineffective as a shrub control practice in this environment. Repeated but infrequent prescribed burning within shrub encroached vegetative states, when used in combination with managed grazing, may be the management required for a transition to desert grassland states within these ecological sites.
Southwestern United States
Journal of the Environment 2010 v.74
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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Agricultural Research Service
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