International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Effects of high fire frequency in creosote bush scrub vegetation of the Mojave Desert

Matthew L. Brooks

US Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Yosemite Field Station, 5083 Foresta Road. El Portal, CA 95318-0700, USA. Email: matt_brooks@usgs.gov

International Journal of Wildland Fire 21(1) 61-68 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF10140
Submitted: 4 December 2010  Accepted: 17 May 2011   Published: 24 October 2011

Abstract

Plant invasions can increase fire frequency in desert ecosystems where fires were historically infrequent. Although there are many resource management concerns associated with high frequency fire in deserts, fundamental effects on plant community characteristics remain largely unstudied. Here I describe the effects of fire frequency on creosote bush scrub vegetation in the Mojave Desert, USA. Biomass of the invasive annual grass Bromus rubens L. increased following fire, but did not increase further with additional fires. In contrast, density, cover and species richness of native perennial plants each decreased following fire and continued to decrease with subsequent fires, although not as dramatically as after the initial fire. Responses were similar 5 and 14 years post-fire, except that cover of Hymenoclea salsola Torr. & A. Gray and Achnatherum speciosa Trin. & Rupr. both increased in areas burnt once. These results suggest that control of B. rubens may be equally warranted after one, two or three fires, but revegetation of native perennial plants is most warranted following multiple fires. These results are valid within the scope of this study, which is defined as relatively short term vegetation responses (≤14 years) to short fire return intervals (6.3 and 7.3 years for the two and three fire frequency levels) within creosote bush scrub of the Mojave Desert.

Additional keywords: annual grass, Bromus rubens, disturbance, ecosystem transformer, fire effects, grass–fire cycle, red brome.


References

Abella SR (2009) Post-fire plant recovery in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of western North America. Journal of Arid Environments 73, 699–707.
Post-fire plant recovery in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of western North America.CrossRef | open url image1

Beatley JC (1966) Ecological status of introduced brome grasses (Bromus spp.) in desert vegetation of southern Nevada. Ecology 47, 548–554.
Ecological status of introduced brome grasses (Bromus spp.) in desert vegetation of southern Nevada.CrossRef | open url image1

Bowers JE, Webb RH, Rondeau RJ (1995) Longevity, recruitment and mortality of desert plants in Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. Journal of Vegetation Science 6, 551–564.
Longevity, recruitment and mortality of desert plants in Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA.CrossRef | open url image1

Bowns JE (1973) ‘An autecological study of blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima Torr.) in southwestern Utah.’ PhD Dissertation, Utah State University, Logan, UT.

Brooks ML (1999) Alien annual grasses and fire in the Mojave Desert. Madrono 46, 13–19.

Brooks ML (2000) Bromus madritensis subsp. rubens (L.) Husnot. In ‘Invasive plants of California’s wildlands’. (Eds C Bossard, M Hoshovsky, J Randall) pp. 72–76. (University of California Press: Berkeley, CA)

Brooks ML (2002) Peak fire temperatures and effects on annual plants in the Mojave Desert. Ecological Applications 12, 1088–1102.
Peak fire temperatures and effects on annual plants in the Mojave Desert.CrossRef | open url image1

Brooks ML (2007) Effects of land management practices on plant invasions in wildland areas. In ‘Biological invasions. Ecological Studies. Vol. 193’. (Ed. W Nentwig) pp. 147–162. (Springer: Heidelberg, Germany)

Brooks ML, Berry KH (2006) Dominance and environmental correlates of alien annual plants in the Mojave Desert. Journal of Arid Environments 67, 100–124.
Dominance and environmental correlates of alien annual plants in the Mojave Desert.CrossRef | open url image1

Brooks ML, Chambers JC (2011) Resistance to invasion and resilience to fire in desert shrublands of North America. Rangeland Ecology and Management 64, 431–438.
Resistance to invasion and resilience to fire in desert shrublands of North America.CrossRef | open url image1

Brooks ML, Esque TC (2002) Alien annual plants and wildfire in desert tortoise habitat: status, ecological effects and management. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 4, 330–340.

Brooks ML, Matchett JR (2003) Plant community patterns in unburned and burned blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) shrublands in the Mojave Desert. Western North American Naturalist 63, 283–298.

Brooks ML, Matchett JR (2006) Spatial and temporal patterns of wildfires in the Mojave Desert. 1980–2004. Journal of Arid Environments 67, 148–164.
Spatial and temporal patterns of wildfires in the Mojave Desert. 1980–2004.CrossRef | open url image1

Brooks ML, Minnich RA (2006) Southeastern deserts bioregion. In ‘Fire in California’s ecosystems’. (Eds NG Sugihara, JW van Wagtendonk, KE Shaffer, J. Fites-Kaufman, AE Thode) pp. 391–414. (University of California Press: Berkeley, CA)

Brooks ML, Pyke DA (2001) Invasive plants and fire in the deserts of North America. In ‘Proceedings of the invasive plant workshop: the role of fire in the control and spread of invasive species’. (Eds KEM Galley, TP Wilson) pp. 1–14. (Tall Timbers Research Station: Tallahassee, FL)

Brooks ML, Esque TC, Duck T (2007) Fuels and fire regimes in creosotebush, blackbrush and interior chaparral shrublands. In ‘Fire ecology and management of the major ecosystems of southern Utah’. (Eds S Hood, M Miller) USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-202, pp. 97–110. (Fort Collins, CO)

Brown DE, Minnich RA (1986) Fire and creosote bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California. American Midland Naturalist 116, 411–422.
Fire and creosote bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California.CrossRef | open url image1

Callison J, Brotherson JD, Bowns JE (1985) The effects of fire on the blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) community of southwestern Utah. Journal of Range Management 38, 535–538.
The effects of fire on the blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) community of southwestern Utah.CrossRef | open url image1

Enright NJ, Thomas I (2008) Pre-European fire regimes in Australian ecosystems. Geography Compass 2, 979–1011.
Pre-European fire regimes in Australian ecosystems.CrossRef | open url image1

Fites-Kaufman J, Bradley AF, Merill AG (2006) Fire and plant interactions. In ‘Fire in California’s ecosystems’. (Eds NG Sugihara, JW van Wagtendonk, KE Shaffer, J Fites-Kaufman, AE Thode) pp. 94–117. (University of California Press: Berkeley, CA)

Hereford R, Webb RH, Longpré CI (2006) Precipitation history and ecosystem response to multi decadal precipitation variability in the Mojave Desert region, 1893–2001. Journal of Arid Environments 67, 13–34.
Precipitation history and ecosystem response to multi decadal precipitation variability in the Mojave Desert region, 1893–2001.CrossRef | open url image1

Holmgren RC (1960) Inspection tour of old blackbrush burns in BLM District N-5, southern Nevada. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Reno Research Center. (Reno, NV)

Humphrey RR (1974) Fire in desert and desert grasslands of North America. In ‘Fire and ecosystems’. (Eds TT Kozlowski, CE Ahlgren) pp. 365–400. (Academic Press: New York)

Lei SA (1999) Postfire woody vegetation recovery and soil properties in blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) shrubland ecotones. Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science 32, 105–115.

Lovich JE, Bainbridge D (1999) Anthropogenic degradation of the southern California desert ecosystem and prospects for natural recovery and restoration. Environmental Management 24, 309–326.
Anthropogenic degradation of the southern California desert ecosystem and prospects for natural recovery and restoration.CrossRef | open url image1

MacMahon JA (2000) Warm deserts. In ‘North American terrestrial vegetation’. (Eds MG Barbour, WD Billings) pp. 285–322. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

Minnich RA (1995) Wildland fire and early postfire succession in Joshua tree woodland and blackbrush scrub of the Mojave Desert of California. San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly 42, 99–106.

Munz PA (1973) ‘A California flora and supplement.’ (University of California Press: Berkeley, CA)

O’Leary JF, Minnich RA (1981) Postfire recovery of creosote bush scrub vegetation in the western Colorado Desert. Madrono 8, 61–66.

Pyke DA, Brooks ML, D’Antonio CM (2010) Fire as a restoration tool: a decision framework for predicting the control or enhancement of plants using fire. Restoration Ecology 18, 274–284.
Fire as a restoration tool: a decision framework for predicting the control or enhancement of plants using fire.CrossRef | open url image1

Rowlands R, Johnson H, Ritter E, Endo A (1982) The Mojave Desert. In ‘Reference handbook on the deserts of North America (Ed. GL Bender) pp. 103–163. (Greenwood Press: Westport, CT)

Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) ‘Biometry.’ (WH Freeman: New York)

Steers RJ (2008) Invasive plants, fire succession and restoration of creosote bush scrub in southern California. PhD dissertation, University of California, Riverside, CA.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service (1994) ‘Desert tortoise (Mojave Population) recovery plan.’ (United States Fish and Wildlife Service: Portland, OR)

Webb RH, Belnap J, Thomas KA (2009a) Natural recovery from severe disturbance in the Mojave Desert. In ‘The Mojave Desert: ecosystems processes and sustainability’. (Ed. RH Webb) pp. 343–377. (Springer: Heidelberg, Germany)

Webb RH, Fenstermaker LF, Heaton JS, Hughson DL, McDonald EV, Miller DM (2009b) ‘The Mojave Desert: ecosystems processes and sustainability’. (Springer: Heidelberg, Germany)

Whisenant SG (1990) Changing fire frequencies on Idaho’s Snake River plains: ecological and management implications. In ‘Proceedings – symposium on cheatgrass invasion, shrub die off and other aspects of shrub biology and management’. (Eds D McArthur, ED Romney, EM Smith, SD Tueller) USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, General Technical Report INT-276. pp. 4–7. (Las Vegas, NV)

Wright HE, Bailey AW (1982) ‘Fire ecology, United States and Canada.’ (Wiley: New York)

Zouhar K, Kapler Smith J, Sutherland S, Brooks ML (Eds) (2008) Wildland fire in ecosystems: fire and non-native invasive plants. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-42-Vol. 6. (Ogden, UT)



Export Citation Cited By (14)