Carex inops



INTRODUCTORY


 
Typical subspecies on a disturbed Siskiyou County, CA, site. Photo by Dr. Dean Wm. Taylor, Jepson Herbarium.
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Fryer, Janet L. 2009. Carex inops. 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/ [].

FEIS ABBREVIATION:
CARINO
CARINOH
CARINOI

NRCS PLANT CODE [108]:
CAIN9
CAINH2
CAIN3

COMMON NAMES:
sun sedge
long-stolon sedge

TAXONOMY:
The scientific name of long-stolon sedge is Carex inops Bailey (Cyperaceae) [26,37,63,76,93]. There are 2 subspecies:

Carex inops subsp. heliophila, sun sedge [37,63]
Carex inops subsp. inops (Mackenzie) Crins, typical subspecies of long-stolon sedge [54]

These subspecies are poorly differentiated, both morphologically and taxonomically [26,37] (see General Botanical Characteristics). In this review, the subspecies are referred to as "sun sedge" and the "typical subspecies". "Long-stolon sedge" refers to the species as whole. As of 2009, most literature pertained only to sun sedge.

In the broad sense, long-stolon sedge is a member of the Pennsylvania sedge (C. pennsylvanica) complex [26,93], a group of closely related taxa characterized by rhizomes or long stolons [16,26].

SYNONYMS:
for Carex inops subsp. heliophila:
Carex heliophila Mack [46,52]
Carex pensylvanica Lam. var. digyna Boeckeler [32,34,44,55]
Carex pensylvanica Lam. subsp. heliophila (Mack.) W.A. Weber [68,114]

LIFE FORM:
Graminoid

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
None

OTHER STATUS:
Information on state- and province-level protection status of long-stolon sedge in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.

DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Carex inops
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Species: Long-stolon sedge is native to the United States and Canada, occurring from British Columbia east to Ontario and south to California and Indiana [37,63]. It is absent from Idaho and Nevada [63]. Plants Database provides a distributional map of long-stolon sedge and its subspecies.

Subspecies:
Sun sedge occurs from north-central British Columbia east to southeastern Ontario and south to southern New Mexico and northwestern Indiana. It is most common east of the Rocky Mountains.

The typical subspecies occurs on the West Coast. It is patchily distributed from south-central British Columbia to north-central California [26,37,104,108].

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Sun sedge occurs as scattered plants throughout much of its distribution [103] but dominates in some grasslands. It is most widely distributed in short- [18,26] and mixed-grass [26,44] prairies—together described as plains grasslands [7,40]—and tallgrass prairies [26,37,44] but is also common in interior ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum) communities [37]. In the Great Plains sun sedge grows in pastures, open grasslands, thickets, and occasionally in woodlands [46]. On a latitudinal gradient of the Great Plains, sun sedge reaches greatest abundance in the Northern Great Plains, rapidly dropping out of the aspen (Populus spp.) parklands of southern Canada with increasing latitude; its importance decreases with decreasing latitude in the Southern Great Plains [84]. Sun sedge's most common codominants on short- and mixed-grass prairies are western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) and other wheatgrasses (Triticeae), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and other bluestems (Andropogoneae), needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata) and other needlegrasses (Stipeae) [8,9,15,24,81], and/or blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and other gramas (Bouteloua) [18,25,33]. Sun sedge is an important component of northern rough fescue (Festuca altaica) prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northern Montana [6,23]. Tallgrass prairie codominants are big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii) [19], little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) [97], and/or sand bluestem (A. hallii) [24,28,91]. Kuchler [67] called sun sedge a "characteristic species" of big bluestem-little bluestem-prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia) tallgrass prairies of Kansas.

Sun sedge is occasional [60] to dominant [22] in mid- to high-elevation (>5,000 feet (2,000 m)) mountain meadows [22,60] and shrublands of the northern Rocky Mountains. It showed high constancy (75%) but not dominance in Rocky Mountain juniper/bluebunch wheatgrass (Juniperus scopulorum/Pseudoroegneria spicata) draws in the Dakotas regions of the Missouri Plateau [50] and had minor coverage in Wyoming big sagebrush/Idaho fescue (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis/Festuca idahoensis) habitat types of north-central Colorado [111].

Vegetation classifications describing plant communities where sun sedge is a dominant or indicator species are listed below by state and province.

Colorado Montana Nebraska North Dakota South Dakota Wyoming Saskatchewan Typical subspecies: Very little habitat information was available for the typical subspecies as of 2009. This subspecies generally grows in pine (Pinus spp.) woodlands and near mountain streams [26]. It is reported on ski slopes within the Sierra lodgepole pine (P. latifolia var. murrayana) forest zone of Mt Hood, Oregon [105].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Carex inops

 

GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Long-stolon sedge flowerhead. © 2008 Keir Morse.
Botanical description: This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology and is not meant for identification. The Flora of North America [37] provides a key for identifying long-stolon-sedge. See these sources: [26,93] for keys to the Pennsylvania sedge complex, including long-stolon sedge and its subspecies. Long-stolon sedge subspecies are differentiated mainly by minor differences in peduncle length of the staminate spikes and morphology of spike scales [26,37], so they are difficult to distinguish. Since they are morphologically similar and poorly defined taxonomically [26], geographical distributions are the most reliable way to differentiate long-stolon sedge subspecies from each other [26]. See the following sources for keys to distinguish sun sedge [55,60,68] and the typical variety [54,55] from similar local Carex.

Aboveground: Long-stolon sedge is a loosely caespitose, perennial graminoid [37,52]. It is low to medium statured compared to other Carex [17,60]. Culms are 4 to 20 inches (10-50 cm) long [37,54]. Leaves are slender, stiff, and wiry [103]. Old, dead leaves are persistent [37,44], often forming fibrous tufts at the stem base [37,44,103]. Inflorescences are terminal staminate and pistillate spikes [37,44,46]. Male spikes may be pediceled above female spikes. The fruit is a hairy [103] achene [26,37,44,46] ranging from 1.6 to 2.5 mm long [26]. Seedheads bear 5 to 15 fruits each [103].

Belowground: Long-stolon sedge typically has well-developed rhizomes [37,68]. Its common name is a misnomer; only one flora describes long-stolon sedge as stoloniferous [44]. Sun sedge's rhizomes are slender [52,60] and coarse [60], varying in length from "short" [46] to "long" [44,46]. The California flora describes the typical variety as "long-rhizomed" [54]. Depth of long-stolon sedge rhizomes was not documented in the literature as of 2009.

Long-stolon sedge has fibrous roots. Sun sedge has shallow [112,113], coarse, primary and secondary fibrous roots [60]. Using a model, Peters and Herrick [87] predicted sun sedge's depth of maximum root biomass in desert grasslands as 12 inches (30 cm) [45].

Life span: A model predicted sun sedge's maximum life span in desert grasslands at 25 years [45].

Raunkiaer [92] life form:
Hemicryptophyte
Geophyte

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Sun sedge is a cool-season plant [3,95,103,110]. In the Northern Great Plains, it is among the first upland plants to green up in spring [59,103], and sun sedge is the most abundant of the early flowering Carex on the eastern slopes of Colorado's Rocky Mountains[114]. Across its range, sun sedge flowers from April to July [44,81] and fruits from April to early June [37].

Phenology of sun sedge in several states
Location Event
Front Range, Colorado

flowers in early April [81]

Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota begins growth from April to early May;
flowers from mid- to late June;
disperses seed from late September to early October [10]
Nebraska flowers in April [101]
Plains grasslands of North Dakota seed matures in June [57]

The typical variety of long-stolon sedge fruits from late April to late July across its distribution [37].

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Long-stolon sedge reproduces vegetatively and by seed. As of 2009, little information was available on regeneration from seed.

Vegetative regeneration: Sun sedge sprouts from the rhizomes after top-kill [18,20]. Top-killed plants likely also sprout from their root crowns.

Pollination: Long-stolon sedge is wind pollinated [104].

Seed production, dispersal, banking, and germination: No information was available on these topics.

Seedling establishment and plant growth: Little is known of either sun sedge's ability to establish from seed or its growth rate.

Heavy grazing usually limits sun sedge's growth. In a blue grama-buffalo grass mixed grassland of Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, sun sedge reached greatest average height (3 inches (8 cm)) on ungrazed plots. Mean height decreased with increasing levels of black-tailed prairie dog grazing. Lowest mean height (2 inches (4 cm)) occurred on 4- to 6-year-old prairie dog towns, which were the oldest prairie dog towns surveyed [5]. See Other Management Considerations for further information on grazing impacts.

Sun sedge's predicted maximum growth rate in desert grasslands is probably slow relative to that of associated species. A model predicted a maximum biomass of 0.2 ounce (7.2 g)/plant [45].

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Sun sedge:
Soils: Sun sedge commonly grows on medium- to coarse-textured soils. It is most frequent on loams or sandy loams [37,59,94]. In ponderosa pine/sun sedge habitat types of Wyoming and South Dakota, for example, sun sedge grows in loams and sandy loams with a pH range of 4.8 to 5.8 [56]. On the Custer National Forest, the needle-and-thread grass/sun sedge habitat type also occurs on loams and sandy loams [49]. On the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, interior ponderosa pine-Rocky Mountain juniper/sun sedge communities occur on sands derived from sandstone, clays derived from shale, and silts derived from siltstone [20]. Sun sedge also grows in silt in eastern Montana [85] and south-central North Dakota [73]. Rocky soils are not limiting. Sun sedge occurs on rocky outcrops in Pipestone National Monument [10] and is abundant on stony hills in Wind Cave National Park [116].

Preferred sun sedge soils are mesic and well drained, although sun sedge grows on dry sites in the Intermountain West. Sun sedge is more common on mesic than droughty soils on the Great Plains [59]. In blue grama-buffalo grass associations of Alberta and Saskatchewan, sun sedge is most abundant on "favored", mesic sites such as sandy swales [25]. On the Custer National Forest, the needle-and-thread grass/sun sedge habitat type occurs on soils that are typically wetter than soils of the needle-and-thread grass/threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia) habitat type [49]. Sun sedge grows in dry forest habitats. On the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, it is an associated species in the interior ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass type, which occurs on south-facing slopes with dry, coarse soils [20].

Topography: Sun sedge may be more abundant on sheltered than exposed sites. On the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, interior ponderosa pine-Rocky Mountain juniper/sun sedge communities generally occur on mesic, north- or east-facing slopes [20]. Sun sedge and Schweinitz's flatsedge (Cyperus schwenitzii) were the most frequent of 21 associated taxa in sand big bluestem rolling prairies of eastern Nebraska. The sedges were common on all aspects but were most frequent between dunes [96]:

Mean frequency of sun sedge and Schweinitz's flatsedge by topographic position. Data for the 2 sedges are pooled [96].
  Interdune South-facing slope Dune top North-facing slope
Frequency (%) 97.5a 90.2b 86.3c 81.4d
Different letters indicate a significant difference between positions (P<0.05).

On the Konza Prairie Natural Research Area of Kansas, sun sedge was more common on upland than lowland big bluestem communities [41].

Elevation: Few elevational ranges were reported for sun sedge as of 2009. It occurs from 5,000 to 9,000 feet (2,000-3,000 m) in Colorado [52,71]. It was collected from 4,501 to 5,171 (1,372-1,576 m) in the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming [56].

Climate: Sun sedge may not tolerate extended drought. Sarvis [95] reported that in the Northern Great Plains, the "Dust Bowl" drought of 1934 to 1936 reduced sun sedge from predrought dominance to "near elimination", with sun sedge confined to depressions and ravines in 1938 surveys.

Typical subspecies:
Soils: The typical subspecies grows on well-drained, sandy and loamy soils on open slopes [26,37]. It occurs on dry, rocky soils in California [54].

Elevation: Across its distribution, the typical subspecies occurs from 330 to 7,000 feet (100-2,000 m) [37,54]. It is reported from 3,000 to 7,000 feet (1,000-2,000 m) in California [54] and from 4,902 to 5,121 (1,494-1,561 m) on the slopes of Mt Hood [105].

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Sun sedge occurs and may be common in all stages of grassland succession. In woodland and other shaded communities, it is more common in early- than late-seral stages. Patterns of sun sedge succession in short- and mixed prairies, tallgrass prairies, and woodlands and forests follow.

Short- and mixed-grass prairies: Sun sedge is a common species in seral plains grassland communities. In a 1919 Colorado survey, sun sedge dominated early-seral, mixed-grass prairies on dry mesas and foothills [89]. In mixed-grass dunelands of southern Saskatchewan, sun sedge is codominant to dominant on blowout depressions; blowout communities are typically a midsuccessional stage of duneland succession. Needle-and-thread grass-fringed sagebrush (Artemisia frigida) communities are the final stage of duneland stabilization; sun sedge is typically important but no longer dominant in stabilized duneland communities [58].

Animal disturbance: Sun sedge occurs on both grazed and ungrazed grasslands across its range [37]. Sun sedge was most frequent in new black-tailed prairie dog colonies in mixed-grass prairie habitats of Wind Cave National Park [4,5]. Sun sedge cover (and frequency) averaged 0% (0%) on uncolonized plots; 5% (71%) on plots colonized 2 to 3 years; and 2% (58%) on plots colonized 4 to 6 years [5]. In a blue grama shortgrass prairie on the Central Plains Experimental Range, Colorado, sun sedge was significantly denser and had more cover on western harvester ant mounds than sites without ant disturbance (P<0.05) [16].

Heavy livestock grazing usually lowers sun sedge abundance. See Other Management Considerations for further information.

Although common in seral plains grasslands, sun sedge typically persists and may be important to dominant in late-seral plains grasslands. In a chronosequence study of old fields on the Pawnee National Grassland and the Central Plains Experimental Range of Colorado, sun sedge was codominant on 25- to 50-year-old fields. By then, the fields had converted to blue grama-buffalo grass shortgrass communities [18]. On the Custer National Forest, the needle-and-thread grass/sun sedge and Idaho fescue/sun sedge habitat types are climax stages of shortgrass prairie steppe vegetation. With disturbance, sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) and nonnative grasses, especially Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus), become more important in the needle-and-thread/sun sedge type. The Idaho fescue/sun sedge type is drier, and nonnatives are less likely to invade on disturbed Idaho fescue/sun sedge sites, although sagebrush may be invasive [49].

Tallgrass prairies: Sun sedge is generally more abundant in early- than late-successional tallgrass prairies. For example, it was more important in seral than climax sand bluestem-prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia)-little bluestem prairies of the Nebraska sandhills [24]. Ina 1938 survey of sandhill vegetation in Cherry County, Nebraska, sun sedge was an important groundlayer component of blowout grass (Redfieldia flexuosa) communities, the earliest successional phase in development of sand bluestem prairies [106]. In big bluestem-sideoats grama-little bluestem prairie of Nebraska, sun sedge was more common on open sites than beneath eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) canopies [100].

Woodland and forest succession: Sun sedge is most common on open sites in woody plant communities, although it may grow in shade on harsh sites. In Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, sun sedge frequency was significantly higher on trail edges than in interior coniferous forests (P=0.238) [11]. In a chronosequence study of old fields in the Black Forest of eastern Colorado, sun sedge was an important understory species of 22-year-old fields. Interior ponderosa pine saplings dominated the old field overstory. Blue grama dominated the understory, with sun sedge the eventual groundlayer dominant (see Colorado plant communities). Interior ponderosa pine seedlings and invasive nonnatives such as sixweeks grass (Vulpia octoflora) dominated younger old fields [71]. In ponderosa pine woodlands of the Niobrara Valley Preserve, sun sedge increased in importance with increasing stand density [53]. Sun sedge may benefit from shade protection on these xeric sites (see Site Characteristics).

Mycorrhizal associations may favor other herbs over sun sedge on some sites. On the Colorado State Forest, sun sedge dominated the ground layer beneath mountain pine beetle-killed interior ponderosa pines (7.3% cover) but not beneath live interior ponderosa pines (1.5% cover). Laboratory examinations for vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae in groundlayer plant species found no evidence of mycorrhizal infection in sun sedge. The authors speculated that under live trees—where infected groundlayer species dominated—groundlayer species with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae associations outcompeted sun sedge for water, phosphorus, and/or micronutrients [65].

Typical subspecies:
Very little information was available on successional patterns of the typical subspecies as of 2009. On ski runs of Mt Hood, the typical subspecies was most important on highly disturbed sites in the lodgepole pine zone, showing 92% cover on steep (µ=44%), unforested slopes [105].

FIRE EFFECTS AND MANAGEMENT

SPECIES: Carex inops
FIRE EFFECTS: Immediate fire effect on plant: Low- to moderate-severity fire typically top-kills sun sedge [20]. Old, dead stems, which tend to collect at the stem base [37,44,103], may increase residence time of flames and lead to mortality of belowground roots crowns and/or rhizomes.

Severe fire can kill sun sedge on some sites. On the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, a mixed-severity wildfire burned through an interior ponderosa pine-Rocky Mountain juniper/sun sedge woodland and a Rocky Mountain juniper shrubland. An unpublished report documented that fire severity was generally lower in the ponderosa pine woodland than in the shrubland. In the woodland, sun sedge mortality was "highly variable", ranging from 0% to 100% based on comparison of sun sedge cover on burned and unburned plots in postfire year 4. Sun sedge was present on some severely burned patches in the ponderosa pine woodland at postfire year 4, suggesting top-kill, but did not occur on severely burned shrubland sites. The authors speculated that the high prevalence of low-growing Rocky Mountain junipers in the shrubland resulted in a greater downward heat pulse when the shrubland burned than occurred when the ponderosa pine woodland burned [20]. Hotter soil temperatures on the shrubland sites might have killed sun sedge rhizomes.

Information on the fire ecology of the typical subspecies was lacking as of 2009, and research is needed in this area. Given the subspecies' morphological and taxonomic similarities, fire effects and plant responses to fire are probably similar for sun sedge and the typical subspecies.

Postfire regeneration strategy [102]:
Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Herbaceous root crown, growing points in soil
Geophyte, growing points deep in soil

Fire adaptations and plant response to fire:
Fire adaptations: Soil protects sun sedge's rhizomes from fire on many sites [17,20]. Establishment from dispersed or soil-stored seed may be important after severe fires and on sites where sun sedge was absent before fire; however, information on sun sedge's ability to establish from seed after fire was lacking as of 2009.

Plant response to fire: Sun sedge sprouts from the rhizomes after top-kill by fire [17,20]. Sprouting from the root crown is also likely, although this was not documented in the literature. Sun sedge responses after tallgrass prairie, shrubland, and woodland fires are detailed below. Its rate of recovery after short- and mixed-grass prairie fires was not available as of 2009.

Prairie communities: On the Konza Prairie Natural Research Area, Kansas, plots in a big bluestem-switchgrass-Indiangrass (Panicum virgatum-Sorghastrum nutans) community were either burned under prescription in various seasonal rotations or mowed and baled, with bales moved off site. Sun sedge was most abundant on plots burned annually in March or November [43]:
   
Soil characteristics and treatments on the Konza Prairie Natural Research Area (compiled by Gibson [43])
Soil characteristics
Soil series
Tully Florence Irwin Sogn Benfield
Depth (cm) 25 25 28 23 15
Topography foot slopes upper rim of slopes ridge tops slopes ridge tops
Slope (%) 4-8 0 4-8 5-20 0
Texture silty clay-loam cherty silt-loam silty clay-loam silty clay-loam silty clay-loam
Percent sun sedge cover (and frequency) after prescribed burning or mowing and bailing on 3 soil series on a tallgrass prairie, Konza Prairie Natural Research Area. The number of plots/treatment ranged from 1-5. Treatments started in 1972; data were collected in 1983 [43].
Fire rotation and season Tully soil Florence soil Mixed Irwin, Sogn, Benfield, & Tully soils
Unburned ---* 0.2 (22) ---
Annually burned
November 
0.2 (28) 5.2 (100) ---
March 
0.6 (48) 1.0 (100) ---
Late April 
0.01 (2) 0.02 (3) ---
2-year rotation,
April fire
0.03 (5) 0.3 (38) ---
4-year rotation,
April fire
0.01 (2) 0.3 (40) ---
Mowed & baled,
March
--- 0.2 (3) 0.1 (20)
*No data.
 
Also on the Konza Prairie Natural Research Area, sun sedge had significantly greater cover on unburned American badger mounds (near dens) than on American badger mounds that had burned 3 years previously (P=0.0005) [42].

Prescribed fires favored sun sedge in a plains rough fescue prairie near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Fires were set in spring (6 May 1998), summer (26 June 1998), and fall (8 October 1998). In the 2nd postfire growing season, sun sedge cover was greater on all burned plots than on an adjacent unburned plot, with greatest cover on fall-burned plots [6].

Mean sun sedge cover (%) 2 years after prescribed fires in Saskatchewan [6]
Unburned Spring Summer Fall
1.4 2.6 3.2 3.7

See the Research Project Summary of this study for information on the fire prescription, fire behavior, and postfire responses of 33 other plant species in the plains rough fescue community.

On a quaking aspen-rough fescue parkland in east-central Alberta, annual burning may have favored sun sedge by creating drier site conditions than are typical for these parklands. Anderson and Bailey [2,3] reported a "major increase" in sun sedge cover and frequency after 25 years of repeated annual April burning. At that time, cover and frequency of sun sedge were significantly greater (P<0.005) on burned plots than on unburned plots [2,3]. Overall, annual spring burning decreased plant productivity [3] but favored graminoids and forbs over woody species [2,3].

Mean sun sedge cover and frequency after 25 annual prescribed fires in Alberta [2,3]
Treatment Cover (%) Frequency (%)
Burned 14 26
Unburned <0.1 <0.1

Shrubland and woodland communities: In the short term, sun sedge grew slowly after the stand-replacement Chapin 5 Wildfire in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. Prefire frequency of sun sedge was not known, but sun sedge was not present on study plots at the end of the 1st postfire growing season [39]. At the end of the 2nd postfire growing season, sun sedge had similar frequency in Colorado pinyon-Utah juniper (Pinus edulis-Juniperus osteosperma) woodland (0.06%), shrubland dominated by bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) and/or Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) (0.07%), and Colorado pinyon-Utah juniper/shrubland (0.05%) communities [38,39].

After wildfire on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (see Immediate fire effect on plant), sun sedge cover in interior ponderosa pine woodland ranged from 0% to 30%. Sun sedge recovery was apparently inversely related to postfire cover of Japanese brome. In the shrubland, sun sedge postfire cover on moderately-burned sites ranged from 4% to 20% in postfire year 4 [20].

FUELS AND FIRE REGIMES: Fuels: In the Great Plains, grasslands with a sun sedge component are often highly productive, so fine fuel loads may be high. On the Central Grassland Research Station, aboveground productivity of blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-sun sedge communities averaged 3,599 kg/ha, with sun sedge and other sedges contributing about 22% (792 kg) of total aboveground biomass. Blue grama-sun sedge-little bluestem communities averaged 3,952 kg/ha, with sedges contributing about 16% (632 kg) of total aboveground biomass [73,75]. In Anderson and Bailey's study, total standing crop biomass of grassland areas was 1,499 kg/ha on annually burned and 9,244 kg/ha on unburned plots [2]. The contribution of sun sedge alone to fuel loads was not available for plains grassland or other plant communities. Sun sedge's tendency to accumulate old, dead stems at the base [37,44,103] likely increases its flammability and the residence time of flames.

Fire regimes: Historically, the grassland and woodland communities in which sun sedge is common had fire-return intervals of 20 years or less. Across the Great Plains, grassland fires may have occurred as frequently as every 1 to 6 years [66]. Frequent fires in tallgrass prairies helped maintain these grasslands [29]. Interior ponderosa pine/sun sedge woodlands experienced mostly frequent, low-severity understory fires with occasional stand-replacing fires [20]. See the Fire Regime Table for further information on fire regimes of vegetation communities in which sun sedge and the typical subspecies may occur.

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Limited, short-term research suggests that fall prescribed fire favors sun sedge in prairie communities [6,43], and that sun sedge may be reduced but recovers quickly after spring prescribed prairie fire on some sites [6,43]. One long-term study found large increases in sun sedge after repeated spring prescribed fires on northern prairie parklands [2,3]. To date (2009), there is not enough information available to access sun sedge's postfire response in plains grassland or ponderosa pine woodlands. However, sun sedge was historically an important to dominant component of these fire-adapted communities, and it would likely recover quickly from low-severity prescribed fires in most grassland and woodland communities unless overgrazed after fire.

Sun sedge is an important forage plant (see Importance to Wildlife and Livestock), and fire-grazing interactions probably influence sun sedge's ability to recover from fire. No research was available on the interactive effects of grazing and fire on sun sedge as of 2009. Since sun sedge cannot tolerate heavy grazing even without fire, heavy postfire utilization of sun sedge would probably result in sun sedge decline.

Because research on the basic ecology and fire ecology of the typical subspecies was lacking as of 2009, suggestions for fire management of Carex inops subsp. inops cannot be made at this time.

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Carex inops
The following section pertains only to sun sedge. Information on the topics below was lacking for the typical subspecies as of 2009.

IMPORTANCE TO WILDLIFE AND LIVESTOCK:
Rodents, lagomorphs, and ungulates graze sun sedge. On the Pawnee National Grassland, Ord's kangaroo rats, northern grasshopper mice, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and deer mice utilization of sun sedge ranged from 0.1% to 5.0% across 1 year [35]. Seasonal utilization was not given. Sun sedge was an important component of the spring and early summer diets of black-tailed jackrabbits on the Pawnee National Grassland [36]. In Wind Cave National Park, elk use of sun sedge was similar from winter to summer (3.7-5.0%) and least in fall (0.9%) [115]. Sun sedge was a minor component of the pronghorn diet on the Pawnee National Grassland. Use peaked at 4% in April and May, with only trace amounts consumed in other months [98]. Sun sedge was also a minor component in the pronghorn diet (17% frequency but 1%-4% utilization) in a needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass community in southeastern Alberta [79]. On the Pawnee National Grasslands, bison grazed sun sedge in trace amounts in December and did not utilize it in other months [86].

Sun sedge is considered "excellent feed" for cattle and other livestock. Early spring green-up provides important early forage [59,95,103], and cattle usually graze sun sedge heavily in early spring [22,95]. Livestock utilization may extend through the growing season [95]. On the Manitou Experimental Forest, Colorado, cattle grazed sun sedge lightly in all months except November, when utilization increased to 1.4% of the diet. Mule deer also grazed sun sedge year-round, with use peaking in May (7.6% of diet). The rangeland was an interior ponderosa pine/sleepygrass (Achnatherum robustum) type [27].

Palatability and/or nutritional value:
Mammals: Sun sedge is moderately to highly palatable to cattle [31,62,110] and highly palatable to horses [31]. It is rated fairly palatable to domestic sheep, pronghorn, and mule deer and unpalatable to white-tailed deer [31]. Surveys on the Northern Great Plains showed a mean overall grazing utilization of 80% [95]. On an interior ponderosa pine/Arizona fescue rangeland [61] and an interior ponderosa pine/little bluestem-Arizona fescue rangeland on the Manitou Experimental Forest, Colorado, cattle grazed sun sedge more than expected based on its availability. On the Manitou Experimental Forest, sun sedge usage increased greatly and cover slightly with level of grazing intensity, with 12% use and 2% cover on lightly grazed and 42% use and 6% cover on heavily grazed plots [99]. Higher use under heavy grazing suggests that other, more palatable graminoids were depleted first.

For most mammalian grazers, palatability of sun sedge likely decreases through the grazing season. On sand big bluestem-little bluestem sandhills prairie of Nebraska, cattle utilization of sedges (Carex, with sun sedge most common) was greatest in May (22%), when sun sedge production peaked at 96 kg/ha [61]. On plains grasslands of North Dakota, palatability of sun sedge for cattle was high early in the growing season and low late in the growing season [57]. In blue grama-cheatgrass and western wheatgrass-Japanese brome grasslands of north-central Colorado, desert cottontails grazed sun sedge heavily in spring (49% frequency) and lightly in summer (3% frequency) [30].

Insects: Conflicting field and laboratory results leave sun sedge's relative palatability for grasshoppers undetermined to date (2009). In a blue grama-prairie sandreed community of northeastern Colorado, 5 species of grasshopper preferred bunchgrasses to sun sedge; sun sedge use was light (<3%) [51]. In the laboratory, high levels of phenolics were detected in sun sedge relative to associated grasses, and grasshoppers (Ageneotettix decorum and Phoetaliotes nebracensis) preferred grasses over sun sedge. Plant materials and grasshoppers were collected in a big bluestem-little bluestem-western wheatgrass sandhills prairie community on the Arapaho Prairie, Nebraska [83]. However, in a sand bluestem-little bluestem-sun sedge community on the Arapaho Prairie, sun sedge had lower levels of phenolics than sand bluestem and little bluestem, suggesting it was more palatable than those grasses. Differences were significant for plant species and across years within species (P=0.001). Within years, sun sedge's phenolic content increased from late May to September [82].

On the Central Grasslands Research Station in south-central North Dakota, preference of scarab beetle (Phyllophaga anxia) grubs for needleleaf sedge (Carex duriuscula) and western wheatgrass over sun sedge and blue grama increased the relative densities of sun sedge and blue grama in a mixed-grass prairie infested with grubs [74].

Nutritional value: See Hopper and Nesbitt [57] for a nutritional analysis of sun sedge in the seed stage.

Cover value: Sun sedge may provide important habitat and cover for greater prairie-chickens. Of 11 habitat types on the Sheyenne National Grasslands of North Dakota, blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-sun sedge hummocky sandhills were the most important nesting and brooding habitats of greater prairie-chickens. The blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-sun sedge habitat type was also important for roosting. Most greater prairie-chicken night roosts—primarily willows (Salix sp.) and cottonwoods (Populus sp.)—were located within the habitat type [77].

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
No information is available on this topic.

OTHER USES:
No information is available on this topic.

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Sun sedge is an important forage component of many western rangelands. Interior ponderosa pine/sun sedge habitat types, for example, are used as spring and fall livestock rangeland and provide spring and summer forage for large game animals [56]. Sun sedge is moderately tolerant of grazing but usually declines under heavy grazing.

Sun sedge "stood up well" under grazing and clipping treatments in the Northern Great Plains [95]. Moir and Trlica [80] concluded that 30 years of moderate cattle grazing on blue grama-western wheatgrass-sun sedge communities of southeastern Colorado had little effect on plant species composition, including sun sedge abundance, and that "this is not unexpected, since shortgrass prairies of North America have a long history of coevolution with grazing animals". Sun sedge showed no significant change in biomass 4 years after cessation of cattle grazing on a hairy grama-prairie sandreed-big bluestem community of the Arapaho Prairie [88], suggesting tolerance of prior grazing. On the Sheyenne National Grasslands, there was no significant difference in sun sedge basal cover among ungrazed, season-long, and grazing-deferred plots. Stocking rates were provided [77].

Grazing may favor sun sedge on some sites. On western wheatgrass-prairie Junegrass-needle-and-thread grass rangeland in North Dakota, sun sedge cover increased progressively on ungrazed (19%), season-long grazed (20%), and rotation-grazed (24%) plots. Stocking rate was 10 cow-calf pairs/32 ha [12]. In Wind Cave National Park, sun sedge cover increased in black-tailed prairie dogs towns under heavy grazing pressure for at least 3 years after black-tailed prairie dog colonization, while cover of associated—and likely more palatable—Kentucky bluegrass and needle-and-thread grass decreased [4].

A few studies found sun sedge decline with heavy use. In a blue grama-needle-and-thread-threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia) mixed grassland in North Dakota, sun sedge was more common on exclosures than on sites with cattle grazing (0.5% vs. 0.1%, respectively). Total graminoid utilization was approximately 40% on grazed sites [13]. In the Little Missouri Badlands of North Dakota, overall sun sedge cover was lower on grazed than ungrazed plots but differed among sites. The blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-threadleaf sedge community showed greatest differences in sun sedge production between ungrazed and grazed plots [14]:

Aboveground sun sedge production by grazing treatment and site in 3 North Dakota plant communities [14]
Site  
West Tracy Mountain Sandy upland East Tracy Mountain
Vegetation type  
blue grama-
needle-and-thread grass-
threadleaf sedge
prairie sandreed western wheatgrass-
blue grama-
threadleaf sedge
Treatment  
ungrazed grazed ungrazed grazed ungrazed grazed
Sun sedge production (g/m²) 34.7 2.8 3.5 0.2 1.2 1.4
Soil sandy Mollisols
(ungrazed & grazed)
very sandy Entisols
(ungrazed & grazed)
clayey Mollisols
(ungrazed & grazed)
Slope (%);
aspect
3;
north
2;
northeast, east, & west
3;
south

Heavy livestock and/or big game grazing in interior ponderosa pine/sun sedge habitat types of the Black Hills reduces sun sedge cover [56].

APPENDIX: FIRE REGIME TABLE

SPECIES: Carex inops
The following tables provide fire regime information relevant to habitats of sun sedge and the typical subspecies of long-stolon sedge. Follow the links in the tables to documents that provide more detailed information on these fire regimes.
Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which sun sedge is known to occur. This information is taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models [70], which were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion. This table summarizes fire regime characteristics for each plant community listed. The PDF file linked from each plant community name describes the model and synthesizes the knowledge available on vegetation composition, structure, and dynamics in that community. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.
Southwest Great Basin Northern and Central Rockies Northern Great Plains Great Lakes
South-central US Southern Appalachians      
Southwest
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Southwest Grassland
Desert grassland Replacement 85% 12    
Surface or low 15% 67    
Shortgrass prairie Replacement 87% 12 2 35
Mixed 13% 80    
Shortgrass prairie with shrubs Replacement 80% 15 2 35
Mixed 20% 60    
Shortgrass prairie with trees Replacement 80% 15 2 35
Mixed 20% 60    
Plains mesa grassland Replacement 81% 20 3 30
Mixed 19% 85 3 150
Plains mesa grassland with shrubs or trees Replacement 76% 20    
Mixed 24% 65    
Montane and subalpine grasslands Replacement 55% 18 10 100
Surface or low 45% 22    
Montane and subalpine grasslands with shrubs or trees Replacement 30% 70 10 100
Surface or low 70% 30    
Southwest Shrubland
Southwestern shrub steppe Replacement 72% 14 8 15
Mixed 13% 75 70 80
Surface or low 15% 69 60 100
Southwestern shrub steppe with trees Replacement 52% 17 10 25
Mixed 22% 40 25 50
Surface or low 25% 35 25 100
Low sagebrush shrubland Replacement 100% 125 60 150
Gambel oak Replacement 75% 50    
Mixed 25% 150    
Southwest Woodland
Pinyon-juniper (mixed fire regime) Replacement 29% 430    
Mixed 65% 192    
Surface or low 6% >1,000    
Pinyon-juniper (rare replacement fire regime) Replacement 76% 526    
Mixed 20% >1,000    
Surface or low 4% >1,000    
Ponderosa pine/grassland (Southwest) Replacement 3% 300    
Surface or low 97% 10    
Southwest Forested
Riparian forest with conifers Replacement 100% 435 300 550
Riparian deciduous woodland Replacement 50% 110 15 200
Mixed 20% 275 25  
Surface or low 30% 180 10  
Ponderosa pine-Gambel oak (southern Rockies and Southwest) Replacement 8% 300    
Surface or low 92% 25 10 30
Great Basin
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Great Basin Grassland
Great Basin grassland Replacement 33% 75 40 110
Mixed 67% 37 20 54
Mountain meadow (mesic to dry) Replacement 66% 31 15 45
Mixed 34% 59 30 90
Great Basin Shrubland
Mountain big sagebrush Replacement 100% 48 15 100
Mountain big sagebrush with conifers Replacement 100% 49 15 100
Mountain sagebrush (cool sage) Replacement 75% 100    
Mixed 25% 300    
Great Basin Woodland
Juniper and pinyon-juniper steppe woodland Replacement 20% 333 100 >1,000
Mixed 31% 217 100 >1,000
Surface or low 49% 135 100  
Northern and Central Rockies
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Northern and Central Rockies Grassland
Northern prairie grassland Replacement 55% 22 2 40
Mixed 45% 27 10 50
Mountain grassland Replacement 60% 20 10  
Mixed 40% 30    
Northern and Central Rockies Shrubland
Riparian (Wyoming)
Mixed 100% 100 25 500
Wyoming big sagebrush Replacement 63% 145 80 240
Mixed 37% 250    
Mountain shrub, nonsagebrush Replacement 80% 100 20 150
Mixed 20% 400    
Mountain big sagebrush steppe and shrubland Replacement 100% 70 30 200
Northern and Central Rockies Forested
Ponderosa pine (Northern Great Plains) Replacement 5% 300    
Mixed 20% 75    
Surface or low 75% 20 10 40
Ponderosa pine (Northern and Central Rockies) Replacement 4% 300 100 >1,000
Mixed 19% 60 50 200
Surface or low 77% 15 3 30
Ponderosa pine (Black Hills, low elevation) Replacement 7% 300 200 400
Mixed 21% 100 50 400
Surface or low 71% 30 5 50
Ponderosa pine (Black Hills, high elevation) Replacement 12% 300    
Mixed 18% 200    
Surface or low 71% 50    
Ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir Replacement 10% 250   >1,000
Mixed 51% 50 50 130
Surface or low 39% 65 15  
Persistent lodgepole pine Replacement 89% 450 300 600
Mixed 11% >1,000    
Lower subalpine lodgepole pine Replacement 73% 170 50 200
Mixed 27% 450 40 500
Northern Great Plains
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Northern Plains Grassland
Nebraska Sandhills prairie Replacement 58% 11 2 20
Mixed 32% 20    
Surface or low 10% 67    
Northern mixed-grass prairie Replacement 67% 15 8 25
Mixed 33% 30 15 35
Southern mixed-grass prairie Replacement 100% 9 1 10
Central tallgrass prairie Replacement 75% 5 3 5
Mixed 11% 34 1 100
Surface or low 13% 28 1 50
Northern tallgrass prairie Replacement 90% 6.5 1 25
Mixed 9% 63    
Surface or low 2% 303    
Southern tallgrass prairie (East) Replacement 96% 4 1 10
Mixed 1% 277    
Surface or low 3% 135    
Oak savanna Replacement 7% 44    
Mixed 17% 18    
Surface or low 76% 4    
Northern Plains Woodland
Northern Great Plains wooded draws and ravines Replacement 38% 45 30 100
Mixed 18% 94    
Surface or low 43% 40 10  
Great Lakes
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Great Lakes Grassland
Mosaic of bluestem prairie and oak-hickory Replacement 79% 5 1 8
Mixed 2% 260    
Surface or low 20% 2   33
Great Lakes Woodland
Northern oak savanna Replacement 4% 110 50 500
Mixed 9% 50 15 150
Surface or low 87% 5 1 20
South-central US
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
South-central US Grassland
Southern shortgrass or mixed-grass prairie Replacement 100% 8 1 10
Southern tallgrass prairie Replacement 91% 5    
Mixed 9% 50    
Oak savanna Replacement 3% 100 5 110
Mixed 5% 60 5 250
Surface or low 93% 3 1 4
Southern Appalachians
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Southern Appalachians Grassland
Bluestem-oak barrens Replacement 46% 15    
Mixed 10% 69    
Surface or low 44% 16    
Eastern prairie-woodland mosaic Replacement 50% 10    
Mixed 1% 900    
Surface or low 50% 10    
*Fire Severities
Replacement: Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed: Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low: Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [47,69].


Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which the typical subspecies is known to occur. This information is taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models [70], which were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion. This table summarizes fire regime characteristics for each plant community listed. The PDF file linked from each plant community name describes the model and synthesizes the knowledge available on vegetation composition, structure, and dynamics in that community. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.
Pacific Northwest California      
Pacific Northwest
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
Northwest Grassland
Alpine and subalpine meadows and grasslands Replacement 68% 350 200 500
Mixed 32% 750 500 >1,000
Northwest Woodland
Ponderosa pine Replacement 5% 200    
Mixed 17% 60    
Surface or low 78% 13    
Northwest Forested
Dry ponderosa pine (mesic) Replacement 5% 125    
Mixed 13% 50    
Surface or low 82% 8    
Mixed conifer (southwestern Oregon) Replacement 4% 400    
Mixed 29% 50    
Surface or low 67% 22    
California mixed evergreen (northern California) Replacement 6% 150 100 200
Mixed 29% 33 15 50
Surface or low 64% 15 5 30
Lodgepole pine (pumice soils) Replacement 78% 125 65 200
Mixed 22% 450 45 85
Mixed conifer (eastside mesic) Replacement 35% 200    
Mixed 47% 150    
Surface or low 18% 400    
California
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
(years)
Minimum interval
(years)
Maximum interval
(years)
California Grassland
Wet mountain meadow-Lodgepole pine (subalpine) Replacement 21% 100    
Mixed 10% 200    
Surface or low 69% 30    
Alpine meadows and barrens Replacement 100% 200 200 400
California Woodland
Ponderosa pine Replacement 5% 200    
Mixed 17% 60    
Surface or low 78% 13    
California Forested
California mixed evergreen Replacement 10% 140 65 700
Mixed 58% 25 10 33
Surface or low 32% 45 7  
Mixed conifer (North Slopes) Replacement 5% 250    
Mixed 7% 200    
Surface or low 88% 15 10 40
Mixed conifer (South Slopes) Replacement 4% 200    
Mixed 16% 50    
Surface or low 80% 10    
Jeffrey pine Replacement 9% 250    
Mixed 17% 130    
Surface or low 74% 30    
Sierra Nevada lodgepole pine (cold wet upper montane) Replacement 23% 150 37 764
Mixed 70% 50    
Surface or low 7% 500    
Sierra Nevada lodgepole pine (dry subalpine) Replacement 11% 250 31 500
Mixed 45% 60 31 350
Surface or low 45% 60 9 350
*Fire Severities
Replacement: Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed: Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low: Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [47,69].

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