• Woody vegetation response to various burning regimes in South Texas

      Ruthven, Donald C.; Braden, Anthony W.; Knutson, Haley J.; Gallagher, James F.; Synatzske, David R. (Society for Range Management, 2003-03-01)
      Responses of woody plant communities on native rangelands in the western South Texas Plains to fire are not clearly understood. Our objective was to compare woody plant cover, density, and diversity on burned and nontreated rangelands. Five rangeland sites that received 2 dormant-season burns, 5 rangeland sites that received a combination of 1 dormant-season and 1 growing-season burn, and 5 sites of nontreated rangeland were selected on the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area, Dimmit and La Salle Counties, Tex. Woody plant cover was estimated using the line intercept method, and stem density was estimated in 25-x 1.5-m plots. Species richness did not differ among treatments. Percent woody plant cover was reduced by 50 and 41 % on winter and winter-summer combination burned sites, respectively. Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.), twisted acacia (Acacia schaffneri S. Wats.), Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana Scheele), lotebush [Ziziphus obtusifolia (Hook.) T. & G.], wolfberry (Lycium berlandieri Dunal), and tasajillo (Opuntia leptocaulis Cand.) canopy cover was greatest on nontreated sites. Woody plant density declined by 29 and 23% on winter and winter-summer combination burned sites, respectively. Density of guayacan (Guajacum angustifolium Engelm.), wolfberry, and tasajillo was less on all burning treatments. Percent cover of spiny hackberry (Celtis pallida Torr.) and density of Texas pricklypear (Opuntia engelmannii Salm-Reif.-Dyck) declined on winter burned sites. Inclusion of summer fire into the burning regime did not increase declines in woody plants. Fire created a post-fire environment which resulted in the decline of many woody plant species. It is unclear to what degree other environmental factors such as herbivory and competition between woody plants and among woody and herbaceous vegetation may have interacted with fire in producing woody plant declines. Fire may be a useful tool in managing woody vegetation on native south Texas rangelands, while maintaining woody plant diversity.