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Prescribed burning is planning, setting, and managing fires to accomplish resource management objectives. In some parts of the Sonoran Desert, an infrequent fire regime prevailed prior to the introduction of fire-adapted species, and many native plants, such as the giant saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), palo verde trees (Cercidium spp.) and ironwood trees (Olneya tesota), are not adapted to frequent fires (Esque and Schwalbe 2000; Phillips and Comus 2000). Therefore, caution should be used if fire is selected as a control method for invasive species within the region.

Fire control works best when:

  • the invasive species to be controlled is more susceptible to the effects of burning than are the intermingled desirable plant species;
  • controlling cool-season grasses in prairie restoration; and
  • a proper monitoring plan is in place to evaluate the effects and success of the project.

Buffelgrass responds positively and recovers quickly following fire, where native plants do not. Therefore this control method is not recommended for controlling buffelgrass in natural areas within the Sonoran Desert. Further studies are on-going to determine whether there may be windows of opportunities for using prescribed fire to control buffelgrass in fallow agricultural lands (that are now buffelgrass monocultures) as a way to stimulate growth, which may be followed with chemical applications for further control.

Works Cited:

Esque, T.C. and C. Schwalbe. 2000. Nonnative Grass Invasions and Fire in the Sonoran Desert. Western Ecological Research Center. USGS, Tucson, Arizona.

Phillips, S.J. and P.W. Comus (eds.) 2000. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Tucson, Arizona. 628pp.