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Post‐Fire Response of Four Plant Communities in South‐Central New York State

Swan, Frederick R., Jr.
Ecology 1970 v.51 no.6 pp. 1074-1082
Agrostis, Danthonia spicata, Schizachyrium scoparium, Solidago, grasses, hardwood, plant communities, poverty, saplings, sprouting, wildfires, New York
Four plant communities–northern hardwoods, oak woods, goldenrod (Solidago sp.)—poverty grass (Danthonia spicata) fields, and little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius) fields–were studied in seventeen areas on west to southeast slopes which had been burned by wildfires in 1962, 1963, or 1964. Stability of oak woods after fire was greater than that of northern hardwoods as shown by the lower percentage of dead and dying trees (16% vs. 35%), higher percentage of saplings sprouting (87% vs. 43%), higher average number of sprouts per sapling 4.4 vs. 2.5), and higher percentage of ground—layer species remaining unchanged or increasing in frequency (87% vs. 67%). In goldenrod—poverty grass fields, fire caused goldenrods to increase and poverty grass to decrease. Average weight of dicots was 24% more and that of monocots was 50% less in burns than in unburned portions. These fields appeared to revert to poverty grass dominance after several years without fire. In little bluestem fields, red top (Agrostis alba) and little bluestem increased after fire. Average weight of monocots was 32% more than that of dicots was 35% less in burns than in unburned portions. Wildfires top—killed 63—93% of saplings invading fields; 77—90% of saplings in burns produced sprouts.