Skip to main content

Resource Catalog


Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Robert R. Parmenter
Publication Date: 2008

Plant demographic responses to an experimental summer fire were monitored for 12 yr on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, to determine recovery rates of burned plants and evaluate fire effectiveness in preventing shrub invasion of desert grasslands. Fourteen common species of grasses, shrubs, yucca, and cacti were measured for mortality, resprouting, regrowth, herbivory, and reproduction. After the first postfire growing season, black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda [Torr.] Torr.) declined 80% in size, whereas blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis [Willd. ex Kunth] Lag. ex Griffiths) exhibited no decline. Linear regression indicated that B. eriopoda needed 11 yr to recover. Spike dropseed (Sporobolus contractus A.S. Hitchc.) and purple three-awn (Aristida purpurea Nutt.) showed postfire declines in plant sizes, requiring 4- and > 5-yr recovery times, respectively. Sand muhly (Muhlenbergia arenicola Buckl.) exhibited no fire impact. Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae [Pursh] Britt. & Rusby) sustained 61% fire mortality and reduction in regrowth canopy size. Creosotebush (Larrea tridentata [Sesse & Moc. ex DC.] Coville) had 12% mortality, but survivors recovered over 12 yr. Fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens [Pursh] Nutt.) sustained 62% mortality, but recovered plant size in 5-6 yr. Winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata [Pursh] A. D. J. Meeuse & Smit) suffered 7% mortality, but required 9+ yr to recover. Pale desert-thorn (Lycium pallidum Miers) survived fire, recovering prefire canopy size in 3 yr. Torrey joint-fir (Ephedra torreyana Watson) exhibited < 1% mortality, and recovered in 2-3 yr. Soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca Nutt.) had < 2% mortality, recovered plant sizes in 2 yr, and increased numbers of rosettes 17%. Chollas (Opuntia imbricata [Haw.] DC. and Opuntia clavata Engelm.) suffered high mortality rates and required > 12 yr recovery times. Results demonstrated that summer fire may counter some shrub and cacti invasion in central New Mexico, but once shrubs mature, fire is less effective in removing woody plants to restore southwestern grasslands.

Online Links
Citation: Parmenter, Robert R. 2008. Long-term effects of a summer fire on desert grassland plant demographics in New Mexico. Rangeland Ecology & Management 61(2):156-168.

Cataloging Information

Partner Sites:
  • Aristida purpurea
  • Atriplex canescens
  • Bouteloua eriopoda
  • Bouteloua gracilis
  • desertification
  • deserts
  • Ephedra
  • experimental fires
  • fire frequency
  • fire management
  • fuel loading
  • grasses
  • grasslands
  • grazing
  • Gutierrezia sarothrae
  • herbivory
  • Larrea tridentata
  • Lycium pallidum
  • mortality
  • Muhlenbergia
  • New Mexico
  • Opuntia imbricata
  • plant growth
  • post-fire recovery
  • range management
  • range restoration
  • reproduction
  • resprouting
  • season of fire
  • shrub invasion
  • shrubs
  • size classes
  • Sporobolus contractus
  • statistical analysiswildlife
  • woody plants
  • Yucca glauca
Tall Timbers Record Number: 22153Location Status: In-fileCall Number: Journals-RAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 46419

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers 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 Tall Timbers.
This document is part of the Southwest FireCLIME Annotated Bibliography, which includes published research related to the interactions between climate change, wildfire, and subsequent ecosystem effects in the southwestern U.S. The publications contained in the Bibliography have each been summarized to distill the outcomes as they pertain to fire and climate. Go to this document's record in the Southwest FireCLIME Annotated Bibliography.