Invasive plants and fire and in the deserts of North America
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Matthew L. Brooks; David A. Pyke
Publication Year: 2001

Cataloging Information

  • Aplopappus tenuisectus
  • Artemisia spp.
  • bibliographies
  • Bromus rubens
  • Bromus tectorum
  • burning intervals
  • Centaurea
  • Cirsium arvense
  • competition
  • cover type conversion
  • crown fires
  • deserts
  • fine fuels
  • fire exclusion
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire regimes
  • fire suppression
  • forest types
  • grasses
  • grasslands
  • grazing
  • introduced species
  • invasive species
  • Juniperus
  • land management
  • Larrea tridentata
  • livestock
  • native species (plants)
  • Pennisetum
  • perennial plants
  • Pinus edulis
  • plant communities
  • plant growth
  • post fire recovery
  • Prosopis spp.
  • shrublands
  • shrubs
  • soil nutrients
  • species diversity (plants)
  • Taeniatherum caput-medusae
  • trees
  • wildlife
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 21, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 39257
Tall Timbers Record Number: 13897
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Tall Timbers shelf
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Invasive plants and fire create substantial challenges for land managers in the deserts of North America. Invasive plants can compete with native plants, alter wildlife habitat, and promote the spread of fire where it was historically infrequent. Increased fire frequency in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts has converted native shrublands to alien annual grasslands. Fire suppression and overgrazing of livestock has allowed native woody shrubs, such as mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), to invade perennial grasslands in the Chihuahuan Desert, and native trees, such as juniper (Juniperus spp.) and pinyon (Pinus spp.), to invade sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) steppe in the Great Basin. The reintroduction of fire can be complicated by the positive effect of fire on alien invasive plants, and the subsequent effects of invasives on post-fire establishment by native species. Invasive alien grasses especially benefit from fire, and promote recurrent fire, in many cases to the point where native species cannot persist and native plant assemblages are converted to alien-invaded annual grasslands. This vegetation type-conversion can affect wildlife ranging from herbivores to carnivores and reduce overall biodiversity. The effective management of many wildlife species can depend on the control of invasive plants and the maintenance of appropriate fire regimes. Fire can be used to either control invasive species or to restore historical fire regimes. However, the decision to use fire as a management tool must consider the potential interrelationships between fire and invasive species. Historical fire regimes did not occur in the presence of many invasive plants that are currently widespread, and the use of fire may not be a feasible or appropriate management action if fire-tolerant invasive plants are present. The management of fire and invasive plants must be closely integrated for each to be managed effectively.

Brooks, M. L., and D. A. Pyke. 2001. Invasive plants and fire and in the deserts of North America. Proceedings of the Invasive Species Workshop: Tall Timbers Research Station Miscellaneous Publication, v. No. 11, p. 1-14.