Seasonal fire effects on the diversity patterns spatial distribution and community structure of forbs in the northern mixed prairie usa
Biondini, M.E.; Steuter, A.A.; Grygiel, C.E.
Vegetatio 85(1-2): 21-32
The effects of fire season on forb diversity patterns, density, and composition were determined for a northern Mixed Prairie site, USA. Repeated spring burns (dormant season), summer burns, fall burns (dormant season), and unburned treatments were compared over a 3-yr period characterized by wet and dry moisture conditions. Alpha and beta diversity were highest on unburned and summer burn treatments, while landscape mosaic diversity was highest on fall burns. Forb density was highest on fall and spring burn sites. Nine forb species comprised 82% of total densities and were significantly affected by fire season and year to year variations in moisture. Forb composition for unburned and spring burn treatments was similar, but both treatments were different from the summer burn and fall burn treatments which were similar to each other. Fire alone did not appear to be an intense enough disturbance to initiate drastic changes in the forb component of vegetation patches. Specific fire seasons did appear to either mask or enhance forb structure arising from other disturbance(s). Fire season also affected the scales of forb organization in the landscape. Contrasting spatial characteristics of the forb component of prairie plant communities may provide a diagnostic technique for exposing the interaction of disturbances at different temporal and spatial scales.