Ecosystems

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 158–169 | Cite as

An Invasive Grass Increases Live Fuel Proportion and Reduces Fire Spread in a Simulated Grassland

  • Devan Allen McGranahan
  • David M. Engle
  • James R. Miller
  • Diane M. Debinski
Article

Abstract

Fire is a globally important ecosystem process, and invasive grass species generally increase fire spread by increasing the fuel load and continuity of native grassland fuelbeds. We suggest that invasive grasses that are photosynthetically active, while the native plant community is dormant reduce fire spread by introducing high-moisture, live vegetation gaps in the fuelbed. We describe the invasion pattern of a high-moisture, cool-season grass, tall fescue (Schedonorus phoenix (Scop.) Holub), in tallgrass prairie, and use spatially explicit fire behavior models to simulate fire spread under several combinations of fuel load, invasion, and fire weather scenarios. Reduced fuel load and increased extent of tall fescue invasion reduced fire spread, but high wind speed and low relative humidity can partially mitigate these effects. We attribute reduced fire spread to asynchrony in the growing seasons of the exotic, cool-season grass, tall fescue, and the native, warm-season tallgrass prairie community in this model system. Reduced fire spread under low fuel load scenarios indicate that fuel load is an important factor in fire spread, especially in invaded fuel beds. These results present a novel connection between fire behavior and asynchronous phenology between invasive grasses and native plant communities in pyrogenic ecosystems.

Keywords

FARSITE fire area simulator fire regime fuel moisture fuel load tall fescue tallgrass prairie 

Supplementary material

10021_2012_9605_MOESM1_ESM.docx (296 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 296 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Devan Allen McGranahan
    • 1
  • David M. Engle
    • 2
  • James R. Miller
    • 3
  • Diane M. Debinski
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesThe University of the SouthSewaneeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resource Ecology and ManagementOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology Evolution and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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