Effect of fire on southern mixed prairie grasses


Up to the time of this study, most information on vegetation response to fire on mixed prairie is either short-term or gathered following wildfires in drought years. Here, longer-term (2-4 years) effects of late-winter/early spring burningon dominant grass species of the High and Rolling Plains of west Texas (southwest USA) were evaluated when winter-spring precipitation was 0 to 40% above average.

At various locations near Lubbock, Post, Guthrie, Colorado City and Baird, during years with average to above-average winter precipitation, plots (from 1 to 90 acres; 0.4 to 36.4 ha) were burned in early spring (15 March 15 to 7 April 1968, 1970 or 1972).

Yields of stands of the dominant grasses were measured on burned and unburned (control) paired plots for 2 to 4 years after a burn. Vegetation in 10 quadrats (2.4 ft²; 0.22 m²) per plot was clipped (late July) to sample live material and litter. Samples were dried and weighed.

This study indicates that when winter/spring precipitation is above normal, early spring burning is detrimental to sideoats grama Bouteloua curtipendula and Texas wintergrass Nassella leucotricha, and that they will take at least 2 years to recover to pre-burn yields.

Three species, buffalograssBuchloe dactyloides, blue grama Bouteloua gracilis and sand dropseed Sporobolus cryptandrus appeared neither harmed nor benefited by burning.
Species that seem to thrive (increased yield) for one to three growing seasons subsequent to burning were vine-mesquite Panicum obtusum, Arizona cottontop Digitaria californica, little bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium, plains bristlegrass Setaria leucopila, tobosa grass Hilaria muticaand Texas cupgrass Eriochloa sericea.
Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at:


Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust