What role does prescribed fire play in managing annual bromes in northern Great Plains grasslands?
Two exotic annual brome grasses ( Bromus tectorum and B. japonicus) have been a part of the northern Great Plains (NGP) landscape for more than a century, but their invasion in this region has accelerated since 1950. Despite their abundance and negative impact on native grasslands, management efforts to control annual bromes in NGP National Park Service units have been minimal. Spring and fall prescribed fires are used in NGP parks to manage fuel loads, control other non-native species, and maintain a vital ecosystem process, but serious concerns about their use in areas with annual brome grasses have arisen as new data have revealed the degree of invasion by these species in some NGP parks. NGP managers and researchers suspect that prescribed fire may be beneficial for controlling annual bromes when they are not abundant, but that burning in sites dominated by annual bromes may do more harm than good to the remaining native component. Determining whether this suspicion is correct, and if it is, where the threshold between positive and negative effects of fire on the native vegetation lies, is imperative for determining the role of fire in NGP park grasslands. This experiment, conducted in collaboration with the National Park Service’s NGP Fire Management Office and NGP Exotic Plant Management Team, will reduce uncertainties about the role of prescribed fire, alone or in combination with herbicide application or native seed sowing, as a management tool for invasive annual brome grasses in NGP parks