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Season of fire manipulates bud bank dynamics in northern mixed-grass prairie
- Russell, Morgan L., Vermeire, Lance T., Ganguli, Amy C., Hendrickson, John R.
- Plant ecology 2015 v.216 no.6 pp. 835-846
- Bouteloua gracilis, Hesperostipa comata, Pascopyrum smithii, buds, dormancy, fire season, grasslands, growing season, mortality, plant communities, prescribed burning, spring, summer, Montana
- In perennial grassland dominated systems, belowground bud banks regulate plant community dynamics. Plant community responses to disturbance are largely driven by the ability to generate future aboveground growth originating from belowground axillary buds. This study examined bud bank dynamics for Bouteloua gracilis, Hesperostipa comata, and Pascopyrum smithii following fire in northwestern mixed-grass prairie in eastern Montana, USA. Belowground axillary buds were counted and classified for three growing seasons to determine immediate and short-term effects of summer, fall, and spring prescribed burns on patterns of bud bank activity, dormancy, and mortality. Prescribed burns did not result in immediate mortality of B. gracilis, H. comata, or P. smithii buds. Surprisingly, spring prescribed burns immediately increased the number of active B. gracilis buds. Summer fire, however, reduced B. gracilis active bud numbers. Fall burns immediately activated P. smithii buds, whereas fire did not influence any immediate bud dynamics for H. comata. Reduced bud numbers of H. comata may limit the ability to respond to fire. Season of fire directly manipulated bud activity, dormancy, and mortality for these species throughout the growing and dormant seasons following fire. Using season of fire to manipulate bud bank dynamics illustrates potential to improve post-fire management strategies based on known bud development trajectories and bud dynamics following fire.