Effect of repeated burning on plant and soil carbon and nitrogen in cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) dominated ecosystems
- 761 Downloads
Background and Aims
Fire has profound effects on ecosystem properties, but few studies have addressed the effect of repeated burns on soil nutrients, and none have been conducted in cold desert ecosystems where invasion by exotic annual grasses is resulting in greater fire frequency.
In a 5 year study, we examined effects of repeated burning, litter removal, and post-fire seeding on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) contents in soils, litter, and vegetation in a cheatgrass-dominated Wyoming big sagebrush ecological type. We developed a multivariate model to identify potential mechanisms influencing treatment effects and examine the influence of environmental factors such as precipitation and temperature.
We found that repeated burning had strong negative effects on litter C and N contents, but did not reduce soil nutrients or vegetation C and N contents, likely due to cool fire temperatures. There were few effects of litter removal or post-fire seeding. Instead, precipitation and temperature interacted with burning and had the strongest influences on soil N and vegetation C and N contents over time.
Management strategies aimed at decreasing litter and seed banks and increasing competitive interactions may be more effective at reducing cheatgrass success than approaches for reducing soil nutrients.
KeywordsCold desert Invasive annual grasses Repeated fire Restoration Sagebrush Shrublands
Total mineral nitrogen
This study was a collaborative effort among the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, University of Nevada, Reno, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Winnemucca District of the Nevada Bureau of Land Management. Research funding was provided through the Rocky Mountain Research Station. We thank T. Morgan, C. Rosner, C. Dencker, and a large number of summer technicians for valuable assistance in the field and lab, and B. Leger, P. Verburg, T. Albright, and B. Rau for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
- Blank RR, Morgan T, Clements CD, Mackey BE (2013) Bromus tectorum L. invasion: changes in soil properties and rates of bioturbation. Soil Sci 178:281–290Google Scholar
- Chambers JC (2000) Seed movements and seedling fates in disturbed sagebrush steppe ecosystems: implications for restoration. Ecol Appl 10:1400–1413Google Scholar
- Chambers JC, Miller RF, Board DI, Pyke DA, Roundy BA, Grace JB, Schupp EW, Tausch RJ (in press) Resilience and resistance of sagebrush ecosystems: implications for state and transition models and management treatments. Rangel Ecol ManagGoogle Scholar
- D’Antonio CM, Vitousek PM (1992) Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass fire cycle, and global change. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 23:63–87Google Scholar
- Denny DW (2002) Soil survey of Humboldt County, Nevada, East Part, part 1. US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, RenoGoogle Scholar
- Frost RA, Launchbaugh KL (2003) Prescription grazing for rangeland weed management: a new look at an old tool. Rangelands 25:43–47Google Scholar
- Grace JB, Youngblood A, Scheiner SM (2009) Structural equation modeling and ecological experiments. In: Miao S, Carstenn S, Nungesser M (eds) Real world ecology: large-scale and long-term case studies and methods. Springer Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Grier CC, Cole DW (1971) Influence of slash burning on ion transport in soil. Northwest Sci 45:100–106Google Scholar
- Jones RO, Chambers JC, Board DI, Johnson DW, Blank RR (in process) Understanding the role of resource limitation in restoration of sagebrush ecosystems dominated by cheatgrass - a mechanistic approachGoogle Scholar
- Keeney DR, Nelson DW (1987) Nitrogen–inorganic forms, sec. 33–3, extraction of exchangeable ammonium, nitrate, and nitrite. In: Page AL et al (eds) Methods of soil analysis: part 2, chemical and microbiological properties agronomy, a series of monographs, no9 pt2. Soil Science Society of America, MadisonGoogle Scholar
- Knutson KC, Pyke DA, Wirth TA, Arkle RS, Pilliod DS, Brooks ML, Chambers JC, Grace JB (in press) Long-term effects of seeding after wildfire on vegetation composition in Great Basin shrub steppe. J Appl EcolGoogle Scholar
- Leffler AJ, Ryel RJ (2012) Resource pool dynamics: conditions that regulate species interactions and dominance. In: Monaco TA, Sheley RL (eds) Invasive plant ecology and management linking processes to practice. CAB International, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Mangold JM (2012) Revegetation: using current technologies and ecological knowledge to manage site availability, species availability, and species performance. In: Monaco T, Sheley R (eds) Invasive plant ecology and management: linking processes to practice. CABI Invasive Plant Series MPG Books Group, ReadingGoogle Scholar
- Mazzola MB (2008) Spatio-temporal heterogeneity and habitat invasibility in sagebrush steppe ecosystems. PhD disseration. University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USAGoogle Scholar
- Peters J (2000) Tetrazolium testing handbook. Contribution no. 29 to the handbook on seed testing. Association of Official Seed Analysts, LincolnGoogle Scholar
- Reilly MJ, Wimberly MC, Newell CL (2006) Wildfire effects on beta-diversity and species turnover in a forested landscape. J Veg Sci 17:447–454Google Scholar
- Rustad LE, Campbell JL, Marion GM, Norby RJ, Mitchell MJ, Hartley AE, Cornelissen JHC, Gurevitch J, Gcte N (2001) A meta-analysis of the response of soil respiration, net nitrogen mineralization, and aboveground plant growth to experimental ecosystem warming. Oecologia 126:543–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1981) Biometry- the principles and practice of statistics in biological research. W. H. Freeman and Co, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
- West NE, Young JA (1999) Vegetation of intermountain valleys and lower mountain slopes. In: Barbour MA, Billings WD (eds) North American terrestrial vegetation, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Wright RJ, Hart SC (1997) Nitrogen and phosphorus status in a ponderosa pine forest after 20 years of interval burning. Ecoscience 4:526–533Google Scholar