Sosa, Gabriela (2009-12). Restoring a Degraded Rangeland: Using Fire and Herbivory to Control Opuntia Cacti Encroachment. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • Innovative restoration strategies are critically needed in the South Texas Plains for controlling increased Opuntia cacti invasions. Using a replicated and randomized experimental study, I have examined the effects of fire seasonality and herbivory on the dominant cacti and herbaceous plant species in this semi-arid ecosystem. Results from this study demonstrate that the combination of fire and wildlife herbivory significantly reduces Opuntia cactus cover. I was able to empirically demonstrate that prescribed fire decreases prickly pear cactus cover. Moreover, this decrease is further exacerbated by the effects of large mammalian herbivores consuming and/or disturbing recently burned mottes. In the absence of fire, both mottes with and without herbivore exclosures increased in size. The ecological insights gained from this study will contribute to the development of management strategies of Opuntia cacti, while promoting the restoration and long-term sustainability of Texas rangelands.
  • Innovative restoration strategies are critically needed in the South Texas Plains
    for controlling increased Opuntia cacti invasions. Using a replicated and randomized
    experimental study, I have examined the effects of fire seasonality and herbivory on the
    dominant cacti and herbaceous plant species in this semi-arid ecosystem. Results from
    this study demonstrate that the combination of fire and wildlife herbivory significantly
    reduces Opuntia cactus cover. I was able to empirically demonstrate that prescribed fire
    decreases prickly pear cactus cover. Moreover, this decrease is further exacerbated by
    the effects of large mammalian herbivores consuming and/or disturbing recently burned
    mottes. In the absence of fire, both mottes with and without herbivore exclosures
    increased in size. The ecological insights gained from this study will contribute to the
    development of management strategies of Opuntia cacti, while promoting the restoration
    and long-term sustainability of Texas rangelands.

publication date

  • December 2009