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Seasonal Timing of Fire Alters Biomass and Species Composition of Northern Mixed Prairie
- Vermeire, L.T., Russell, M.L.
- Rangeland ecology & management 2018 v.71 no.6 pp. 714-720
- Artemisia, Bromus japonicus, C3 plants, Hesperostipa comata, Poa secunda, Vulpia, aboveground biomass, arid lands, autumn, ecosystems, fires, forbs, grasses, grasslands, grazing, growing season, indigenous species, introduced plants, plant communities, species diversity, spring, summer
- Fire plays a central role in influencing ecosystem patterns and processes. However, documentation of fire seasonality and plant community response is limited in semiarid grasslands. We evaluated aboveground biomass, cover, and frequency response to summer, fall, and spring fires and no fire on silty and clayey sites in semiarid, C3-dominated grassland. The magnitude of change in biomass between years was greater than any differences among fire treatments. Still, differences existed among seasons of fire. Summer fire reduced non-native annual forb frequency (3% vs. 10% ± 2%) and Hesperostipa comata, reduced native annual forbs the first year, increased Poa secunda and bare ground, and increased Vulpia octoflora the second year. Fall fire increased grass biomass (1224 vs. 1058 ± 56 kg∙ha−1), but fall fire effects were generally similar to those of summer fire. Spring fire effects tended to be intermediate between no fire and summer and fall fire with the exception that spring fire was most detrimental to H. comata the first growing season and did not increase bare ground. All seasons of fire reduced litter, forb biomass, and frequency of Bromus japonicus and Artemisia spp., and they reduced H. comata, V. octoflora, and native annual forbs the first year, but increased basal cover of C3 perennial grasses (2.2% vs. 0.6% ± 0.4%). Fire during any season increased dominance of native species compared with no fire (6.6% vs. 2.0% ± 1.0% basal cover) and maintained productivity. Seasonal timing of fire manipulated species composition, but increased C3 perennial grass cover and native species dominance with fire during any season indicated that using fire was more important than the season in which it occurred. In addition, fire effects on the vegetation components tended to be counter to previously observed effects of grazing, suggesting fire and grazing may be complementary.