Effects of Fire Exclusion on Previously Fire-Managed Semiarid Savanna Ecosystem

Heath D. Starns, Charles A. Taylor, Nick E. Garza, Douglas R. Tolleson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Long-term (> 100 yr) fire exclusion is associated with numerous ecological consequences in grasslands and savannas, including transitions into shrub- or tree-dominated systems. Several studies have reported differences in woody vegetation after multiple fires among burned and unburned rangelands, but none have reported the impacts of fire exclusion after a period of fire management. We evaluated effects of fire exclusion on herbaceous and woody canopy cover and herbaceous biomass in semiarid savanna of southwest Texas in pastures with known burn histories. Pastures were burned in summer and winter in 1994, 2000, and 2006, followed by 11 yr of fire exclusion. Between 2006 and 2017, woody subcanopy increased (5–21%) in all treatments while overstory canopy remained unchanged. Herbaceous cover decreased (5–18%) in all treatments but remained higher in burned treatments. From 2006 to 2017, herbaceous biomass declined in all treatments by > 650 kg·ha−1 and was not statistically different among treatments. These trends support other research demonstrating the importance of historical mean fire return interval in maintaining grasslands and savannas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-96
Number of pages4
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Edwards Plateau
  • herbaceous biomass
  • long-term effects
  • rangeland
  • Texas
  • woody encroachment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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