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    Description

    Human activities are changing patterns of ecological disturbance globally. In North American deserts, wildfire is increasing in size and frequency due to fuel characteristics of invasive annual grasses. Fire reduces the abundance and cover of native vegetation in desert ecosystems. In this study, we sought to characterize stem growth and reproductive output of a dominant native shrub in the Mojave Desert, creosote bush (Larrea tridentata (DC.) Coville) following wildfires that occurred in 2005. We sampled 55 shrubs along burned and unburned transects 12 years after the fires (2017) and quantified age, stem diameter, stem number, radial and vertical growth rates, and fruit production for each shrub. The shrubs on the burn transects were most likely postfire resprouts based on stem age while stems from unburn transects dated from before the fire. Stem and vertical growth rates for shrubs on burned transects were 2.6 and 1.7 times higher than that observed for shrubs on unburned transects. Fruit production of shrubs along burned transects was 4.7‐fold more than shrubs along paired unburned transects. Growth rates and fruit production of shrubs in burned areas did not differ with increasing distance from the burn perimeter. Positive growth and reproduction responses of creosote following wildfires could be critical for soil stabilization and re‐establishment of native plant communities in this desert system. Additional research is needed to assess if repeat fires that are characteristic of invasive grass‐fire cycles may limit these benefits.

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    Citation

    Molinari, Rebecca Lee; Bishop, Tara B. B.; Bekker, Matthew F.; Kitchen, Stanley G.; Allphin, Loreen; St. Clair, Samuel B. 2019. Creosote growth rate and reproduction increase in postfire environments. Ecology and Evolution. 9: 12897-12905.

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    Keywords

    creosote bush, dendrochronology, fire ecology, Larrea tridentata, Mojave Desert

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/60704