Biological soil crust response to late season prescribed fire in a Great Basin juniper woodland

This study evaluated the effects of fire on biological soil crusts of early-seral juniper. Compared with unburned plots, the biomass of cyanobacteria was diminished under juniper and sagebrush; it was reduced in the interspaces in both burned and unburned plots, presumably in response to generally harsher conditions in the postburn environment. Nitrogen fixation rates declined over time in juniper plots and interspaces but not in sagebrush plots. Although fire negatively affected some biological soil crust organisms in some parts of the early-seral juniper woodland, the overall impact on the crusts was minimal. If the intent of burning is to reduce juniper, burning of early-seral juniper woodland is appropriate, as most affected trees were killed. Burning early-seral juniper may be preferred for controlling juniper encroachment on rangeland.