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Project ID: 17-1-04-7

Year: 2017

Date Started: 09/01/2017

Ending Date:  08/31/2020

Title: Pyrogenic controls on grass-shrub persistence in the Great Plains

Project Proposal Abstract: Relative differences in the persistence of grasses and shrubs following fire are generally unknown, causing debate among rangeland managers on the appropriateness of prescribed fires conducted during drought and whether post-fire reseeding of grasses is necessary. Resolving this uncertainty is of high importance to multiple stakeholder groups and long-term fire research in the Great Plains has struggled to provide answers because fire treatments are not conducted in conditions capable of causing mortality of mature woody species. We have recently conducted studies in the Great Plains showing high intensity fires during drought can cause mortality and reduce densities of multiple resprouting shrub species. Yet, the ultimate challenge needed to respond to stakeholder questions is to replace statistical models of fire effects prediction with models more strongly linked to biophysical processes and plant traits. Hypotheses developed from Buds-Protection-Resources (BPR) Resprouting Theory will allow us to 1) test for differences in herbaceous and shrub persistence by identifying species-specific responses to fire using high resolution fire intensity data; 2) identify physiological mechanisms of resprouting woody and herbaceous plant mortality under different fire intensities and water availability; 3) use functional response trait data to link mortality thresholds to physiological mechanisms; and 4) use empirical data on plant persistence and physiological responses together with detailed measurements of fire behavior and plant exposure to validate and adapt fire effects models for use in grass and shrub dominated ecosystems. This project will provide a mechanistic understanding of shrub and grass persistence to fire and drought in multiple Great Plains states and develop new modules to advance current fire-effects models. We propose two experiments that advance resprouting theory and address core needs of stakeholders across multiple Great Plains states. In Experiment I, we will quantify differences in the persistence of multiple species following fire at Great Plains sites with a history of using high intensity fire to study mortality of resprouting and non-resprouting plants. Drawing from our past efforts, but employing novel technologies, we will quantify fine-scale spatial complexity in fire behavior and the amount of heat that individual plants experience to link exposure to persistence. In Experiment II, we will identify the physiological mechanisms for resprouting that are at the core of BPR Theory. We will focus on the physiological mechanisms that govern persistence following fire for mature shrubs, which stakeholders have identified as a more pressing research need than studying seedling mortality. With our experimental design, BPR Theory will provide a theoretical platform for our modeling efforts and tests of competing hypotheses related to plant persistence following fire under different environmental conditions. Datasets and models from this project will be used to advance the development and validation of process-based fire effects models for grass-shrub ecosystems. Insights gained by quantifying how fire intensity and water limitation affect mortality thresholds in grass, resprouting shrub and non-resprouting shrub species will address one of the greatest sources of uncertainty among stakeholders on the effects of fire in Great Plains ecosystems. Improved management will result from identifying the physiological mechanisms contributing to the persistence of different species under changing plant-water status and fire intensities. Our project, both directly and through our collaborators, will assess, validate, and update both existing and candidate models important for fire effects prediction. These new modules will be used to better model shrub and grass response to fire. We have also partnered with USFS leadership to update fire effects information for multiple species within the Fire Effects Information System.

Principal Investigator: William E. Rogers

Agency/Organization: Texas A&M University-College Station

Branch or Dept: Department of Ecosystem Science & Management


Other Project Collaborators

Type

Name

Agency/Organization

Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

David Garrison

Forest Service

NRS-Northern Research Station

Budget Contact

Terry R. Gross

Forest Service

NRS-Northern Research Station

Co-Principal Investigator

Matthew B. Dickinson

Forest Service

NRS-Forest Health-Sustaining Forests

Co-Principal Investigator

Kathleen L. Kavanagh

Texas A&M University-College Station

Department of Ecosystem Science & Management

Co-Principal Investigator

Alexandra G. Lodge

Texas A&M University-College Station

Department of Ecosystem Science & Management

Co-Principal Investigator

Morgan L. Russell

Texas A&M University-College Station

Department of Ecosystem Science & Management

Co-Principal Investigator

Dirac L. Twidwell

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Agronomy and Horticulture

Co-Principal Investigator

Carissa L. Wonkka

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Agronomy and Horticulture

Collaborator/Contributor

Robert L. Kremens

Rochester Institute of Technology

Imaging Science

Collaborator/Contributor

William E. Mell

Forest Service

PNW-Seattle-Managing Natural Disturbances

Collaborator/Contributor

Joseph J. O’Brien

Forest Service

SRS-Ctr for Forest Disturbance Science

Funding Cooperator

Matthew B. Dickinson

Forest Service

NRS-Forest Health-Sustaining Forests


Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Great Plains

Oak Woodlands

South

Tallgrass


Level

State

Agency

Unit

NATIONAL

MULTIPLE


Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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