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Creators/Authors contains: "Fuhlendorf, Samuel D."

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  1. Abstract Background

    The southeastern United States consists of diverse ecosystems, many of which are fire-dependent. Fires were common during pre-European times, and many were anthropogenic in origin. Understanding how prescribed burning practices in use today compare to historic fire regimes can provide perspective and context on the role of fire in critical ecosystems. On the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), prescribed burning is conducted to prevent live oak (Quercus fusiformis) encroachment and preserve the openness of the herbaceous wetlands and grasslands for endangered whooping cranes (Grus americana) and Aplomado falcons (Falco femoralis). This field note builds a digital fire atlas of recent prescribed burning on the refuge and compares it to the historical fire ecology of ANWR.


    Findings indicate that the refuge is maintaining fire-dependent ecosystems with an extensive burn program that includes a fire return interval between 2 and 10 years on a majority of the refuge, with some locations experiencing much longer intervals. These fire return intervals are much shorter than the historic burn regime according to LANDFIRE.


    Following the fire return intervals projected by LANDFIRE, which project longer intervals than the prescribed fire program, would likely be detrimental to endangered species management by allowing increased woody plant encroachment and loss of open habitat important to whooping cranes and Aplomado falcons. Since prescribed fire is part of the management objectives on many national wildlife refuges in the United States, quantifying recent and historical fire ecology can provide useful insights into future management efforts, particularly in cases where endangered species are of special concern and management efforts may be counter to historical disturbance regimes.

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  2. Abstract

    Herbivores and fire are important consumers of plant biomass that influence vegetation structure, nutrient cycling, and biodiversity globally. Departures from historic biomass consumption patterns due to wild herbivore losses, livestock proliferation, and altered fire regimes can have critical ecological consequences. We set out to (i) understand how consumer dominance and prevalence responded to spatial and temporal moisture gradients in Holocene North America and (ii) examine how past and present consumer dominance patterns in North America compare to less altered consumer regimes of modern Sub-Saharan Africa. We developed long-term records of bison abundance and biomass burning in Holocene midcontinent North America and compared these records to reconstructions of moisture availability and vegetation structure. We used these reconstructions to characterize bison and fire prevalence across associated moisture and vegetation gradients. We found that bison herbivory dominated biomass consumption in dry settings whereas fire dominated in wetter environments. Historical distributions of herbivory and burning in midcontinent North America resemble those of contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting disturbance feedbacks and interactions regulate long-term consumer dynamics. Comparisons of consumer dynamics in contemporary North America with Holocene North America and Sub-Saharan Africa also reveal that fire is functionally absent from regions where it was once common, with profound ecological implications.

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  3. Abstract

    Arthropod consumption provides amino acids to invertebrates and vertebrates alike, but not all amino acids in arthropods may be digestible as some are bound in the exoskeleton. Consumers may not be able to digest exoskeleton in significant amounts or avoid it entirely (e.g., extraoral digestion). Hence, measures that do not separate digestible amino acids from those in exoskeleton may not accurately represent the amino acids available to consumers. Additionally, arthropods are taxonomically diverse, and it remains unclear if taxonomic differences also reflect differences in amino acid availability. Thus, we tested: (1) if there were consistent differences in the content and balance of amino acids between the digestible tissue and exoskeleton of arthropods and (2) if arthropod Orders differ in amino acid content and balance. We measured the amino acid content (mg/100 mg dry mass) and balance (mg/100 mg protein) of whole bodies and exoskeleton of a variety of arthropods using acid hydrolysis. Overall, there was higher amino acid content in digestible tissue. There were also significant differences in the amino acid balance of proteins in digestible tissue and exoskeleton. Amino acid content and balance also varied among Orders; digestible tissues of Hemiptera contained more of some essential amino acids than other Orders. These results demonstrate that arthropod taxa vary in amino acid content, which could have implications for prey choice by insectivores. In addition, exoskeleton and digestible tissue content differ in arthropods, which means that whole body amino acid content of an arthropod is not necessarily a predictor of amino acid intake of a predator that feeds on that arthropod.

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  4. Freckleton, Robert (Ed.)
  5. Abstract

    Temperature has long been understood as a fundamental condition that influences ecological patterns and processes. Heterogeneity in landscapes that is structured by ultimate (climate) and proximate (vegetation, topography, disturbance events, and land use) forces serve to shape thermal patterns across multiple spatio‐temporal scales. Thermal landscapes of grasslands are likely shifting as woody encroachment fragments these ecosystems and studies quantifying thermal fragmentation in grassland systems resulting from woody encroachment are lacking. We utilized the August 21st, 2017, solar eclipse to mimic a rapid sunrise/sunset event across a landscape characterized as a grassland to experimentally manipulate levels of solar radiation in the system. We then quantified changes in near‐surface temperatures resulting from changes in solar radiation levels during the eclipse. Temperatures were monitored across three grassland pastures in central Oklahoma that were characterized by different densities (low, medium, and high) ofJuniperus virginianato understand the impact of woody encroachment on diurnal temperature patterns and thermal heterogeneity in a grassland's thermal landscape. The largest temperature range across sites that occurred during the eclipse was in the mixed grass vegetation. Similarly, the largest change in thermal heterogeneity occurred in the grassland with the lowest amount of woody encroachment. Thermal heterogeneity was lowest in the highly encroached grassland, which also experienced the lowest overall change in thermal heterogeneity during the eclipse. Time series models suggested that solar radiation was the most influential factor in predicting changes in thermal heterogeneity as opposed to ambient temperature alone. These results suggest that highly encroached grasslands may experience lower diurnal variability of temperatures at the cost of a decrease in the overall thermal heterogeneity of that landscape. It appears that fine‐scale spatio‐temporal thermal variation is largely driven by solar radiation, which can be influenced by vegetation heterogeneity inherent within a landscape.

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