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Data from: Demographic effects of a megafire on a declining prairie grouse in the mixed-grass prairie

Cite this dataset

Parker, Nicholas et al. (2022). Data from: Demographic effects of a megafire on a declining prairie grouse in the mixed-grass prairie [Dataset]. Dryad.


Recent studies have documented benefits of small, prescribed fire and wildfire for grassland-dependent wildlife, such as lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicintus), but wildlife demographic response to the scale and intensity of megafire (wildfire > 40,000 ha) in modern fragmented grasslands remains unknown. Limited available grassland habitat makes it imperative to understand if increasing frequency of megafires could further reduce already declining lesser prairie-chicken populations, or if historical evolutionary interactions with fire make lesser prairie-chickens resilient. To evaluate lesser prairie-chicken demographic response to megafires, we compared lek counts, nest density, and survival rates of adults, nests, and chicks before (2014–2016) and after (2018–2020) a 2017 megafire in the mixed-grass prairie of Kansas, USA (Starbuck fire ~254,000 ha). There was a 67% decline in attending males on leks post-fire and a 46% decline in occupied leks post-fire. Despite population declines as indicated by lek counts, adult female breeding season survival (Ŝ) was similar pre- (Ŝ = 0.65 ± 0.08 [SE]) and post-fire (0.61 ± 0.08), as was chick survival (pre-fire: 0.23 ± 0.07; post-fire: 0.27 ± 0.11). Nest survival appeared lower post-fire (pre-fire: 0.38 ± 0.06; post-fire: 0.20 ± 0.06), but did not differ at the 95% confidence interval. Nest density of marked females declined 73% in areas burned by megafire. Although lesser prairie-chickens persisted in the study area and we documented minimal effects on most demographic rates, reduced lesser prairie-chicken abundance and reproductive output suggests full recovery may take >3 years. Increased propensity for megafire resulting from suppression of smaller fires, compounded by climate change and woody encroachment, may impose a short-term (3-5 year) threat to already declining lesser prairie-chicken populations.

Usage notes

Nest and chick data are formatted for use in Program MARK.


United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Award: W-108-R-1