Using fire to control invasive plants - two new research briefs and papers posted

Matt Brooks, the leader of the CFSC's Mojave and Sonoran Desert Region, has just written two short briefs that each summarize publications regarding the use of fire as a management tool to control invasive plant species. You can read them below, and both are also posted in the Desert Resources pageas well as under "Management Guides" under the central "Resources" menu on the top bar.

This review evaluates the current state of knowledge on prescribed burning as a tool for invasive weed management. Prescribed burning has primarily been used as a tool for the control of invasive late-season annual broadleaf and grass species, particularly yellow starthistle, medusahead, barb goatgrass, and several bromes. However, timely burning of a few invasive biennial broadleaves (e.g., sweetclover and garlic mustard), perennial grasses (e.g., bluegrasses and smooth brome), and woody species (e.g., brooms and Chinese tallow tree) also has been successful. In many cases, the effectiveness of prescribed burning can be enhanced when incorporated into an integrated vegetation management program. Although there are some excellent examples of successful use of prescribed burning for the control of invasive species, a limited number of species have been evaluated. In addition, few studies have measured the impact of prescribed burning on the long-term changes in plant communities, impacts to endangered plant species, effects on wildlife and insect populations, and alterations in soil biology, including nutrition, mycorrhizae, and hydrology.

This manual targets fire management staff and is designed to summarize the links between fire management and invasive plant invasions and management. It also provides practical guidelines that fire managers should consider with respect to invasive plants. Minimum recommendations fall into two broad categories. First, prevent dispersal of invasive plants by: 1) locating fire camps and staging areas in areas relatively free of weeds and other invasive plant; 2) washing vehicles and equipment before and after being used within a project area (i.e., treatment area, fireline); and 3) ensuring that any revegetation (e.g., seed mixes) or other organic material (e.g., straw mulch) that is introduced into the project area is certified as weed-free. Second, minimize resource available to invasive plants by: 1) removing only enough vegetation to accomplish the management objectives (e.g, creating a managed fuel zone, constructing a fireline; and 2) replacing highly flammable vegetation with less flammable vegetation as an alternative strategy to complete vegetation removal when creating a managed fuel zone.