Positive feedbacks between fire and non-native grass invasion in temperate deciduous forests

Stephanie A. Wagner, Jennifer M. Fraterrigo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-native grass invasions have the potential to change natural and prescribed fire regimes by altering fuels, which in turn may promote further invasion. We examined if invasion by Microstegium vimineum, a non-native annual grass, resulted in a positive invasion-fire feedback in eastern deciduous forests managed with prescribed fire and how this response varied across the landscape. Using paired invaded and uninvaded plots embedded in forest stands subjected to prescribed fire, we quantified differences in fire intensity and fuel loads, and fire effects on M. vimineum seedbank emergence, performance and spread. Invaded sites had less leaf litter and fine woody fuels, and increased fire intensity. Although fire reduced emergence of M. vimineum from the soil seedbank, sites subjected to prescribed fire had greater M. vimineum biomass and higher recruitment than unburned sites. Soil moisture strongly modulated M. vimineum response to fire, such that fire facilitated M. vimineum invasion more in wetter than drier sites. These findings indicate that deciduous forests are vulnerable to positive invasion-fire feedbacks, although the positive effect of fire may be less pronounced where soil moisture is limiting. The interaction between soil moisture and fire effects can inform management decisions regarding where to combine prescribed burning with intensive invasive control measures such as torching, hand pulling, and herbicide application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Oct 15 2015


  • Exotic species
  • Fire behavior
  • Japanese stiltgrass
  • Microstegium vimineum
  • Plant invasion
  • Prescribed fire
  • Soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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