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Characteristics of information available on fire and invasive plants in the eastern United States

Posted date: August 28, 2012
Publication Year: 
Authors: Gucker, Corey L.; Zouhar, Kris; Smith, Jane Kapler; Stone, Katharine R.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Fire Ecology. 8(2): 57-81.


Wildland managers need detailed information about the responses of invasive species to fire and the conditions that increase site invasibility in order to effectively manage fire without introducing or increasing populations of invasive plants. Literature reviews and syntheses of original research are important sources of this information, but the usefulness of a review is limited by the quantity, quality, and geographic coverage of information available when it is written. This study analyzed the information available for 61 syntheses published in the Fire Effects Information System ( between 2008 and 2011, covering 74 species of invasive plants in the eastern United States. The study focused especially on the origin of information available in source documents, particularly whether or not it was based on actual observations. We found that observation- based information available on fire and eastern invasive species was sparse, typically came from a small portion of the species' North American range, and had many other limitations. Nine of the 61 reviews contained no observation-based information on fire at all. Observations of postfire abundance of invasive species were constrained by inconsistent metrics and short postfire time frames, making it difficult for reviewers to assess patterns or evaluate the relevance of the research to long-term fire effects and land management strategies. More high-quality information is needed for fire managers to avoid exacerbating problems with invasive plant species. Long-term studies are needed that compare burned and unburned sites, evaluate postfire changes in plant communities, and report burning conditions and fire parameters. Reviews and syntheses of research can be improved by not only identifying patterns and knowledge gaps, but also by reporting the geographic areas represented by studies cited and hedging information so that readers can assess its quality and applicability to local management issues. Managers need to recognize the limitations of scientific information, monitor results of their management programs for consistency with reports in the literature, and adapt plans for future work based on an integration of science-based knowledge and experience.


Gucker, Corey L.; Zouhar, Kris; Smith, Jane Kapler; Stone, Katharine R. 2012. Characteristics of information available on fire and invasive plants in the eastern United States. Fire Ecology. 8(2): 57-81.