There has been increasing interest in the use of summer fires to limit woody plant encroachment on grasslands, but information regarding effects of such fires on perennial grass recovery and annual forb production is also needed. Our objective was to examine effects of fire seasonality and intensity on the woody legume honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.), the C4 midgrass tobosagrass (Pleuraphis mutica Buckl.), and the annual forb common broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides [DC.] Nutt.). Treatments included summer fires, high-intensity winter fires, low-intensity winter fires, and no burn in replicated plots. None of the fire treatments caused whole-plant mortality (root kill) in mesquite. Mesquite aboveground mortality (top kill) was much greater after summer and high-intensity winter fires than low-intensity winter fires. Tobosagrass total yield (live dead) was lower following summer fires and was not enhanced by any of the fire treatments for two growing seasons postfire when compared to the no-burn condition. However, tobosagrass live yield was 40% greater in the high-intensity winter fire treatment than the no-burn condition the first summer postfire and recovered in the other fire treatments by the end of the first growing season postfire. Tobosagrass percentage of live tissue was greatest in the summer fire treatment at the end of each of the two growing seasons postfire. Common broomweed cover increased in the summer fire treatment and decreased in both winter fire treatments relative to the no-burn condition by the end of the first growing season postfire. Summer fire offered no clear advantage over high-intensity winter fire with respect to mesquite suppression. However, the increase in late-season tobosagrass percentage live tissue caused by summer fire may be advantageous for forage quality. In addition, patch burning summer fires to increase broomweed cover in selected areas may be useful for wildlife habitat.
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Vol. 61 • No. 6