Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 423–431 | Cite as

How can an invasive grass affect fire behavior in a tropical savanna? A community and individual plant level approach

  • Elizabeth Gorgone-BarbosaEmail author
  • Vânia R. Pivello
  • Susana Bautista
  • Talita Zupo
  • Mariana Ninno Rissi
  • Alessandra Fidelis
Original Paper


Some invasive grasses have been reported to change fire behavior in invaded plant communities. Urochloa brizantha is an aggressive invasive grass in the Brazilian Cerrado, an ecosystem where fire is a common disturbance. We investigated the effects of U. brizantha on fire behavior in an open Cerrado physiognomy in Central Brazil. Using experimental burnings we compared fire behavior at both the community and the individual plant level in invaded (UJ) and non-invaded (NJ) areas burned in July. We also assessed the effect of fire season in invaded areas by comparing July (UJ) and October (UO) burnings. We evaluated the following variables: fuel load, fuel moisture, combustion efficiency, maximum fire temperature, flame height, and fire intensity. Additionally, we evaluated the temperatures reached under invasive and native grass tussocks in both seasons. Fuel load, combustion efficiency, and fire intensity were higher in NJ than in UJ, whilst flame height showed the opposite trend. Fuel amount and fire intensity were higher in October than in July. At the individual plant level, U. brizantha moisture was higher than that of native species, however, temperatures reaching ≥600 °C at ground level were more frequent under U. brizantha tussocks than under native grasses. At the community level, the invasive grass modified fire behavior towards lower intensity, lower burning efficiency, and higher flame height. These results provide essential information for the planning of prescribed burnings in invaded Cerrado areas.


African grass Cerrado Fire behavior Fire intensity Fuel load Urochloa brizantha 



We thank the Fundação Grupo Boticário de Proteção à Natureza (Termo de Parceria No 0106_2011_PR), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES/DGU 227/2010), and the Ministry of Education (PHB2009-0073-PC) and of Science and Innovation (FEEDBACK Project; CGL2011-30515-C02-01) of the Spanish Goverment for financial support. We are grateful to Jonathan Galdi Rosa and Heloíza Lourenço Zirondi for their help during the fire experiments. We also thank the fire fighters from the Serra do Tombador Nature Reserve for their remarkable help during fieldwork and fire experiments. Finally we thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their contribution.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Gorgone-Barbosa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vânia R. Pivello
    • 2
  • Susana Bautista
    • 3
  • Talita Zupo
    • 1
  • Mariana Ninno Rissi
    • 1
  • Alessandra Fidelis
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Biociências, Departamento de BotânicaUNESP – Univ. Estadual PaulistaRio ClaroBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and IMEMUniversity of AlicanteAlicanteSpain

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