Plant Recovery and Deer Use in the Chisos Mountains, Texas, following Wildfire

Although an extremely important biome, little has been studied concerning specific plant responses to wildfire within the pinyon (Pinus spp.)-juniper (Juniperus spp.) woodland. A wildfire in the semi-arid Chisos Mountains, Texas, during 1980 provided an opportunity to examine the phenological response of desert plant species to burning. Consequently, we examined the response of vegetation and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carminis) to wildfire for 2 years in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park (BBNP), Texas. Permanently established, random plots (1 m2) were established shortly after the fire and all individual stems of plants were identified by species and monitored twice/month. Forbs responded immediately (within 2 weeks post-burn) following a spring drought. Mexican pinyon pine (Pinus embroides) and alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) began crown regrowth 2 months after the fire. Grasses responded rapidly in open, meadow areas. Deer use of the burned area increased following the fire, but later decreased to pre-fire rates. When fire is properly managed, habitat quality for deer and other herbivores may be increased, and critically important meadow areas can be protected from pinyon-juniper invasion.

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