Study ID 471

Prescribed Burn Effect on Chihuahuan Desert Grasses and Shrubs at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge

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Realm: Terrestrial
Climate: Temperate
Biome: Deserts and xeric shrublands
Central latitude: 34.350000
Central longitude: -106.880000
Duration: 10 years, from 2004 to 2013

37979 records

162 distinct species

Across the time series Bouteloua eriopoda is the most frequently occurring species


Muldavin, E. & Collins, S. (2003) Prescribed Burn Effect on Chihuahuan Desert Grasses and Shrubs at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico: Species Composition Study 2004 to present. Sevilleta LTER. Available at:, accessed 2016.


Disturbance from fire can affect the abundance and distribution of shrubs and grasses in arid ecosystems. In particular, fire may increase grass and forb production while hindering shrub encroachment. Therefore, prescribed fires are a common management tool for maintaining grassland habitats in the southwest. However, Bouteloua eriopoda (black grama), a dominant species in Chihuahuan Desert grassland, is highly susceptible to fire resulting in death followed by slow recovery rates. A prescribed fire on the Sevilleta National Wildlife refuge in central New Mexico in 2003 provided the opportunity to study the effects of infrequent fires on vegetation in this region. This study was conducted along a transition zone where creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata) are encroaching on a black grama grassland. Before and after the fire, above ground plant productivity and composition were monitored from 2003 to present. Following the prescribed fire, there were fewer individual grass clumps and less above ground grass cover in burned areas compared to unburned areas. This decrease in productivity was primarily from a loss of B. eriopoda. Specifically, B. eriopoda density and cover were significantly lower following the fire with a slow recovery rate in the five years following the fire. Other grasses showed no such adverse response to burning. Unit of abundance = IndCountInt, Unit of biomass = NA