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Abstract Detail

Conservation Biology

Crandall, Raelene [1], Masters, Ronald [2].

Effects of timber and fire management on the understory plant community in a mixed-pine hardwood forest.

Low intensity fires were historically recurrent in mixed-pine hardwood habitats in North America. In the absence of fire, open savannas and prairies were converted to closed-canopy forests with low understory plant diversity. The Pushmataha Forest Habitat Research Area was established in the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma to test an array of forest management and prescribed fire regimes for large-scale application in restoration of fire-suppressed habitats. This study examined the effectiveness of these restoration efforts 17 and 18 years post-treatment by measuring understory plant community composition and species richness. Eight treatments were replicated three times in a randomized block design and sampled using 0.1 ha plots. The treatments were: (1) control; (2) four-year interval, late dormant season, rough-reduction burn; (3) harvest pine only and annual burn; and (4) five harvest pine and thin hardwood treatments with no burn, or four-, three-, two-, or one-year burn intervals. Regardless of timber harvesting, burned and unburned treatments differed in species composition and richness. Timber management alone had no effect on understory species composition or richness as compared to controls. Species richness was significantly higher in burned than unburned treatments. One-and two-year burn intervals prevented the establishment of woody species in the canopy and resulted in prairie habitat. Three-year burn intervals created savanna habitat with patchy and clumped establishment of woody species. In the four-year burn intervals, open woodlands appear to be forming at a higher density. We conclude that restoration of species richness in fire-suppressed, mixed-pine hardwood forests is possible with prescribed fire alone after extended periods of time. However, restoration of structure and function in the short term for species of special concern (i.e., woodland-grassland obligate songbirds) will require alteration of stand structure through thinning to open the canopy and restore these habitats to their historical state. Although a three-year burn interval appears to be a threshold, shifting community structure from herbaceous to woody dominated, we recommend a variable frequent fire regime.

Broader Impacts:

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1 - Washington University - St. Louis, Department Of Biology And Tyson Research Center, Box 1137, St. Louis, MO, 63130, USA
2 - Oklahoma State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Stillwater, OK, 74078, USA

forest management
species richness
understory plants.

Presentation Type: Poster:Posters for Topics
Session: P
Location: Khorassan Ballroom/Chase Park Plaza
Date: Monday, July 11th, 2011
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: PCB003
Abstract ID:595

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