Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Carex bigelowii

Introductory

SPECIES: Carex bigelowii
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Matthews, Robin F. 1992. Carex bigelowii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].
ABBREVIATION : CARBIG SYNONYMS : Carex consimilis Holm Carex rigida Good Carex concolor Mack SCS PLANT CODE : CABI5 COMMON NAMES : Bigelow sedge TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of Bigelow sedge is Carex bigelowii Torr., in the section Acutae of the family Cyperaceae [1,12,16,20,32]. Two subspecies are recognized: C. b. ssp. bigelowii and C. b. spp. hyperborea (Drej.) Bocher [17,20]. Bigelow sedge hybridizes with C. lugens and water sedge (C. aquatilis var. stans) [37]. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Carex bigelowii
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Bigelow sedge is primarily a circumboreal species, occurring from Alaska to Greenland. The southern extent of its range reaches the alpine regions of New England and New York [1,12,17,32]. Populations are also reported at high elevations in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado [8,9,16,18,40]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES41 Wet grasslands FRES44 Alpine STATES : AK CO CT ID ME MA MT NH NY UT VT WY AB BC LB MB NB NF NT NS ON PQ SK YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 11 Southern Rocky Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K015 Western spruce - fir forest K052 Alpine meadows and barrens K094 Conifer bog K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest SAF COVER TYPES : 5 Balsam fir 12 Black spruce 13 Black spruce - tamarack 16 Aspen 18 Paper birch 38 Tamarack 107 White spruce 201 White spruce 202 White spruce - paper birch 203 Balsam poplar 204 Black spruce 206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir 217 Aspen 251 White spruce - aspen 252 Paper birch 253 Black spruce - white spruce 254 Black spruce - paper birch SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Throughout its range, Bigelow sedge generally occurs as scattered individuals. It may occasionally dominate or codominate in tundra regions, shrublands, or in sedge meadows. A published classification listing Bigelow sedge as a major component of plant associations (pas) is as follows: AREA CLASSIFICATION AUTHORITY AK gen. veg. pas Viereck & Dyrness 1980


MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Carex bigelowii
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Bigelow sedge usually does not occur in enough abundance to be considered an important forage plant [16]. Sheep and caribou, however, are known to graze it, primarily in the spring and early summer [19]. PALATABILITY : Palatability of Bigelow sedge is excellent early in the growing season and fair late in the summer [16]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Wein and Bliss [39] found the following plant tissue nutrient concentrations on burned and unburned arctic tussock tundra sites: Macronutrients (% dry weight) Micronutrients (ppm) --------------------------------- ------------------------ N P K Ca Mg Na Fe Mn ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Burned 2.14 0.18 1.32 0.36 0.11 31.3 130.0 863.3 Unburned 1.66 0.13 1.51 0.36 0.15 27.0 217.0 775.7 COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Bigelow sedge has shown good potential for use in revegetation programs, particularily in northern regions. In the western Canadian arctic, growth of Bigelow sedge occurred within 2 months on sites damaged by crude oil spills [4]. It has also been locally successful at naturally colonizing borrow pits along the Dempster Highway in northwestern Canada [21], and is present on sites that are moderately affected by natural sulfur pollution in the Smoking Hills, Canada [13]. The presence of Bigelow sedge seed in soil banks allowed for natural revegetation of bulldozed sites in Alaskan tussock tundra [15]. Bigelow sedge also appears to be highly resistant to trampling in alpine regions of the Adirondacks [22]. The extensive, interconnected rhizome system formed by Bigelow sedge may help to prevent soil erosion. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Bigelow sedge generally increases in response to grazing. Shoot density on grazed sites in Iceland was two times higher than on adjacent ungrazed sites. Growth of the tillers may have been stimulated by increased nutrient availability, and trampling may have killed apical meristems, allowing for increased lateral expansion [19]. Bigelow sedge seeds are buried in soil organic layers. Stockpiling and reutilizing the organic matter after man-made disturbances may be a useful method of restoring natural communities in arctic tussock tundra [15]. Seeding of natural or exotic grasses on disturbed tundra sites may inhibit the growth of Bigelow sedge from the seed bank [6].


BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Carex bigelowii
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Bigelow sedge is a long-lived perennial, exhibiting a more or less uniform graminoid growth form [2]. The culms are stiff and arise singly or in small tufts. They are generally 4 to 16 inches (10-41 cm) high. The stiff, dark-green basal leaves are 8 to 20 to a culm, with the dried leaves of the previous year persisting. Flower morphology has been examined in detail [1,12,16,17]. Bigelow sedge is strongly stoloniferous [16]. Rhizomes are mostly elongate, so the plant is not tussock-forming. Roots are adventitious and are produced at the nodes at the base of erect shoots [35]. Rooting depth is generally to mineral soil [19,33]. In the arctic, distinguishing between Bigelow sedge and water sedge (C. aquatilis var. aquatilis and var. stans) based on morphological differentiation is very difficult [35]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte (Nanophanerophyte) Chamaephyte Cryptophyte (Geophyte) REGENERATION PROCESSES : Bigelow sedge reproduces predominantly by vegetative means, forming extensive clones of interconnected rhizomes [5]. Aboveground portions of tillers may live up to 4 years, after which the rhizomes continue to grow and remain active, persisting for 12 years or longer [2,5]. Growth of the plant results in directional clones; tillers exploit new space by producing long rhizomes with an indefinte numbers of elongated internodes [5,35]. Competition between tillers of the same clone is reduced in this way, which may be important in arctic areas where nutrient levels can be extremely low. Growth of a ramet is dependent on the age of the parent tiller at the time the ramet is initiated. Clonal plants such as Bigelow sedge that have persistant connections between ramets generally have very low mortality rates in the youngest age classes. However, young Bigelow sedge tillers may have a high mortality rate when compared to other clonal species [5]. Bigelow sedge also reproduces sexually, producing at least some viable seed [5]. Shoots flower after 2 years of age and are wind pollinated [35]. Well-developed dormancy mechanisms allow for the incorporation of Bigelow sedge seed into the buried seed pool [15]. Seeds buried up to 200 years may germinate, but seedlings of younger seeds (buried 1 to 20 years) are more vigorous [37]. Seedling recruitment after disturbance is 8 to 12 times higher on organic soil than on mineral soil [15]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Bigelow sedge is found in a wide range of habitats including open rocky sites [16,31], gravel slopes [16], dry or wet tundra [26,31,37], solifluction slopes [10,17,37], and subalpine and alpine meadows and bogs [16,18,24,34]. It occurs at elevations ranging from 6,000 to 12,000 feet (1,818-3,636 m) in the Rocky Mountains [16]. Common associated species include willows (Salix spp.), dwarf arctic birch (Betula nana), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), bog blueberry (V. uliginosum), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), northern Labrador tea (Ledum palustre), American green alder (Alnus crispa), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), alpine bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina), varileaf cinquefoil (Potentilla diversifolia), elephanthead lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), white mountain avens (Dryas octopetala), entire leaf mountain avens (D. integrifolia), alpine timothy (Phleum alpinum), alpine rush (Juncus alpinus), tussock cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), polargrass (Arctagrostis latifolia), tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa), bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), other sedges (Carex spp.), feathermosses (Hylocomium and Aulacomium spp.), lichens (Cladonia and Cladina spp.), and sphagnum mosses. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Bigelow sedge colonizes disturbed sites through seed stored in the soil [15]. It may also persist throughout successional stages and can be present in climax tundra or meadow vegetation [38]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Bigelow sedge flowers from July to September depending on location [12,27,32].


FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Carex bigelowii
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Bigelow sedge is a seed-banking species [10,15,27] and can colonize recently burned areas through germination of long-lived seed stored in the soil [28,37]. It is possible that fire plays a role in activating such on-site seed, but information on this topic is lacking. Bigelow sedge may also sprout from remaining aboveground parts and rhizomes following low-severity fires [29]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community) Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community) FIRE REGIMES: Additional information on Bigelow sedge fire ecology has become available since this review was written. See the FEIS review on Fire regimes in Alaskan tundra communities.


FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Carex bigelowii
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire generally top-kills Bigelow sedge. High-severity fires may also kill belowground vegetative portions. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Bigelow sedge generally recovers well following fire by sprouting or seedling establishment. After tundra fires in northwestern Canada, large numbers of seedlings became established within 2 years and formed a continuous layer within 6 years. Recovery was due to increased vegetative sprouting and seed germination followed by tillering [29]. Bigelow sedge became one of the most common plants on burned sites in the growing season following a July fire on sedge tussock-shrub tundra near Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Frequency in burned sites was 63 percent, but only 17 percent in unburned sites [41]. The following densities [shoots per sq foot (shoots/ sq m)] and frequency (f) and cover (c) percentages were obtained following a moderate- to high-severity fire in a birch shrub community near Seward Peninsula, Alaska [28]: Prefire Postfire yr. 1 Postfire yr. 2 f c f c density f c density -------------------------------------------------------------- Adults 10 10 0 0 0 (0) 5 1 1.2 (13) Seedlings -- -- 10 1 1.2 (19) 10 3 2.3 (25) Tillers -- -- 0 0 0 (0) 10 4 9.3 (100) Chapin [7] found that Bigelow sedge leaf nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations increased by 29 percent and 38 percent, respectively, within 12 months following fire. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


REFERENCES

SPECIES: Carex bigelowii
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Arctic and Alpine Research. 19(4): 366-372. [8685] 7. Chapin, F. Stuart, III; Van Cleve, Keith. 1981. Plant nutrient absorption and retention under differing fire regimes. In: Mooney, H. A.; Bonnicksen, T. M.; Christensen, N. L.; [and others], technical coordinators. Fire regimes and ecosystem properties: Proceedings of the conference; 1978 December 11-15; Honolulu, HI. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-26. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 301-321. [4397] 8. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806] 9. Dorn, Robert D. 1984. Vascular plants of Montana. Cheyenne, WY: Mountain West Publishing. 276 p. [819] 10. Ebersole, James J. 1987. Short-term vegetation recovery at an Alaskan arctic coastal plain site. Arctic and Alpine Research. 19(4): 442-450. [9476] 11. 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Journal of Applied Ecology. 20: 965-980. [18037] 16. Hermann, Frederick J. 1970. Manual of the Carices of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Basin. Agric. Handb. 374. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 397 p. [1139] 17. Hulten, Eric. 1968. Flora of Alaska and neighboring territories. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 1008 p. [13403] 18. Johnson, W. M. 1964. Field key to the sedges of Wyoming. Bulletin 419. Laramie, WY: Agricultural Experiment Station. 239 p. [7651] 19. Jonsdottir, Ingibjorg S. 1991. Effects of grazing on tiller size and population dynamics in a clonal sedge (Carex bigelowii). Oikos. 62(2): 177-188. [17744] 20. Kartesz, John T.; Kartesz, Rosemarie. 1980. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume II: The biota of North America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; in confederation with Anne H. Lindsey and C. Richie Bell, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 500 p. [6954] 21. Kershaw, G. Peter; Kershaw, Linda J. 1987. Successful plant colonizers on disturbances in tundra areas of northwestern Canada. Arctic and Alpine Research. 19(4): 451-460. [6115] 22. Ketchledge, E. H.; Leonard, R. E.; Richards, N. A.; Craul, P. F.; Eschner, A. R. 1985. Rehabilitation of alpine vegetation in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. NE-553. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6 p. [8679] 23. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 24. Lewis, Mont E. 1970. Alpine rangelands of the Uinta Mountains. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Region 4. 75 p. [1451] 25. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496] 26. Martell, Arthur M.; Dickinson, Dawn M.; Casselman, Lisa M. 1984. Wildlife of the Mackenzie Delta region. Occasional Publ. No. 15. Edmonton, AB: The University of Alberta, Boreal Institute for Northern Studies. 214 p. [15014] 27. Morin, Hubert; Payette, Serge. 1988. Buried seed populations in the montane, subalpine, and alpine belts of Mont Jacques-Cartier, Quebec. Canadian Journal of Botany. 66: 101-107. [6376] 28. Racine, Charles H. 1981. Tundra fire effects on soils and three plant communities along a hill-slope gradient in the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Arctic. 34(1): 71-84. [7233] 29. Racine, Charles H.; Johnson, Lawrence A.; Viereck, Leslie A. 1987. Patterns of vegetation recovery after tundra fires in northwestern Alaska, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research. 19(4): 461-469. [6114] 30. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 31. Riley, J. L. 1979. Some new and interesting vascular plant records from northern Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 93(4): 355-362. [13845] 32. Seymour, Frank Conkling. 1982. The flora of New England. 2d ed. Phytologia Memoirs 5. Plainfield, NJ: Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L. Moldenke. 611 p. [7604] 33. Shaver, G. R.; Cutler, J. C. 1979. The vertical distribution of live vascular phytomass in cottongrass tussock tundra. Arctic and Alpine Research. 11(3): 335-342. [13126] 34. Spear, Ray W. 1989. Late-Quaternary history of high-elevation vegetation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Ecological Monographs. 59(2): 125-151. [9662] 35. Miller, John M. 1978. Phenotypic variation, distribution and relationships of diploid and tetr tetraploid populations of the Claytonia perfoliata complex (Portulacace. Systematic Botany. 3(3): 322-341. [18036] 36. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 37. Vavrek, M. C.; McGraw, J. B.; Bennington, C. C. 1991. Ecological genetic variation in seed banks. III. Phenotypic and genetic differences between young and old seed populations of Carex bigelowii. Journal of Ecology. 79: 645-662. [17837] 38. Viereck, L. A.; Dyrness, C. T. 1979. Ecological effects of the Wickersham Dome Fire near Fairbanks, Alaska. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-90. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 71 p. [6392] 39. Wein, Ross W.; Bliss, L. C. 1973. Changes in Arctic Eriophorum tussock communities following fire. Ecology. 54(4): 845-852. [9827] 40. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944] 41. Wright, John M. 1981. Response of nesting lapland longspurs (Calcarius lapponicus) to burned tundra on the Seward Peninsula. Arctic. 34(4): 366-369. [7885] 42. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090]


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