Research Project Summary: Effects of experimental burning on understory plants in a temperate deciduous forest in Ohio


  • RESEARCH PROJECT SUMMARY CITATION
  • STUDY LOCATION
  • SITE DESCRIPTION
  • PREFIRE PLANT COMMUNITY
  • PLANT PHENOLOGY
  • FIRE SEASON AND SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION
  • FIRE DESCRIPTION
  • FIRE EFFECTS ON PLANT COMMUNITY
  • FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS
  • APPENDIX: SPECIES INCLUDED IN THE SUMMARY
  • REFERENCES

  • This Research Project Summary describes effects of fire on small experimental plots in mature second-growth forest, as documented in 3 publications (the "sources" listed below). The 1st and 3rd sources focus on the responses of two invasive plant species to fire in the Central Hardwoods region. The 2nd source focuses on native understory species in the same area and investigates the hypothesis that fire will favor species that form a soil seed bank and species that can sprout from protected meristems.

    Common names are used throughout this summary. For a complete list of the common and scientific names of species discussed and for links toFEIS species reviews, see the Appendix.

    RESEARCH PROJECT SUMMARY CITATION:
    Smith, Jane Kapler, compiler. 2010. Research Project Summary: Effects of experimental burning on understory plants in a temperate deciduous forest in Ohio. 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/ [].

    Sources:
    Glasgow, Lance S.; Matlack, Glenn R. 2007. Prescribed burning and understory composition in a temperate deciduous forest, Ohio, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 238(1-3): 54-64 [3].

    Glasgow, Lance S.; Matlack, Glenn R. 2007. The effects of prescribed burning and canopy openness on establishment of two non-native plant species in a deciduous forest, southeast Ohio, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 238(1/3): 319-329 [1].

    Glasgow, Lance; Matlack, Glenn. 2006. Effects of prescribed burning on invasibility by nonnative plant species in the Central Hardwoods Region. In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 277. Abstract [2].

    STUDY LOCATION:
    Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest, Vinton County, southeastern Ohio [1,2]

    SITE DESCRIPTION:
    The study was conducted on the unglaciated section of the Allegheny Plateau, an area dissected by narrow ridges and small valleys [1]. Elevations range from 700 to 1,000 feet (200-300 m). Soils are moderately drained to well drained sandy and silt loams. Annual average temperature is 52.3 °F (11.3 °C), and average annual precipitation is 40 inches (1,024 mm).

    PREFIRE PLANT COMMUNITY:
    Dominant cover is mixed deciduous forest [1,2]. Ridges and south-facing slopes are dominated by oaks, hickories, and red maple; valleys are dominated by less drought-tolerant species, including sugar maple, black tupelo, and yellow-poplar [1,2]. Before the experimental treatments, no multiflora rose or Japanese stiltgrass was present in experimental plots [2].

    Study sites probably historically experienced the fire regimes described in Table 1.

    Table 1. Fire regime information on vegetation communities in the study area. This information is taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models [6], which were developed by local experts using available literature and expert opinion. This table summarizes fire regime characteristics for the 2 plant communities 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.
    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 floodplain forest
    Mixed 7% 833    
    Surface or low 93% 61    
    Oak-hickory Replacement 13% 66 1  
    Mixed 11% 77 5  
    Surface or low 76% 11 2 25
    *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 [4,5].

    PLANT PHENOLOGY:
    Experimental fires were conducted in early April 2004. Researchers note that this is a month or more before emergence of Japanese stiltgrass seedlings [2].

    FIRE SEASON AND SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:
    spring/low to moderate

    FIRE DESCRIPTION:
    Study sites were stratified according to slope position (ridge vs. valley, where ridges were drier than valleys) and canopy cover (open vs. closed, where "open" had no more than 60% canopy cover). Topography within sites was relatively level. On each site, the following treatments were applied on 7 × 7 foot (2 × 2 m) experimental plots:
    1. low-severity fire, fueled by naturally occurring leaf litter and twigs, plus a "fine mist" of kerosene applied just before ignition
    2. moderate-severity fire, fueled by naturally occurring leaf litter and twigs with "additional litter" added and 20 air-dry boards (1× 1× 80 inch (3 × 3 × 200 cm)) distributed evenly across the plot, plus a fine mist of kerosene applied just before ignition
    3. litter and duff removal (no burning)
    4. lime addition to raise pH by at least 0.4 unit (no burning). This treatment had no significant effects on understory composition or invasive species abundance and is not further discussed here.
    5. control
    Sample plots for both studies were located on the same sites. Burning was conducted between 5 April and 9 April 2004. Fires burned in surface fuels [1,2]. Flames were 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm) long in low-severity plots and 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) long in moderate-severity plots [1]. Maximum temperatures at the soil surface, measured with temperature-sensitive paint, ranged from 183 to 383 °F (84-195 °C) in low-severity plots and averaged about 350 °F (200 °C) higher in moderate-severity plots [1,2]. More than 90% of fuel was consumed. Maximum temperatures were generally higher on ridges than in valleys (Table 2) [2].

    Table 2. Average maximum temperature (SE) (°C) in burned plots [2]
    Position of sensor 25 cm above ground Soil surface
    Burn severity  
    moderate low moderate low
    Open canopy, ridge 317 (5) 82 (3) 371 (0) 151 (25)
    Closed canopy, ridge 252 (4) 56 (2) 343 (19) 84 (20)
    Open canopy, valley 308 (2) 87 (4) 371 (0) 195 (33)
    Closed canopy, valley 300 (3) 67 (3) 359 (12) 105 (19)

    For the invasive plant study, seeds of Japanese stiltgrass and multiflora rose were sown into experimental plots shortly after treatments were completed and again 7 months after treatment (April and November 2004) [2].

    FIRE EFFECTS ON PLANT COMMUNITY:
    Native Plant Study: Regeneration in study plots was recorded by species in July and September 2004 and in June 2005 (3, 5, and 14 months after treatment). Species richness, species diversity, and total stem density were significantly greater in valleys than on ridges for all sample dates (P<0.05), so fire effects were analyzed separately for valley and ridge communities.

    In ridge communities, moderate-severity burn plots tended to be dominated by graminoids that originated both from seed and sprouting. Three woody species showed significant differences in density between treatments: Smooth sumac and yellow-poplar were favored by fire, whereas red maple was less abundant on burned than unburned plots (Table 3). Most stems of these woody species had cotyledons, indicating that regeneration was mainly from seed rather than sprouting.

    In valley communities, fire favored American burnweed, American pokeweed, and grape species. As in ridge communities, red maple was less abundant on burned than control plots (Table 3). None of these 4 species responded significantly to canopy openness, possibly because the cleared experimental plots were too small to change growing conditions substantially [1].

    Table 3. Native understory species that showed significant differences in density between treatments (P<0.05) [1]
      Significant differences Fire effects or implications
    Ridge sites:
    smooth sumac Moderate-severity burn > all other treatments Fire of at least moderate severity important for recruitment
    red maple Burn treatments < control or litter removal  
    yellow-poplar Low-severity burn > control or moderate-severity burn Fire's effect due to litter removal
    Low-severity burn = litter removal
    Valley sites:
    American burnweed Low-severity burn > moderate-severity burn or control Fire's effect due to litter removal
    Litter removal > control
    American pokeweed Moderate-severity burn > all other treatments Fire of at least moderate severity important for recruitment
    grape species Moderate-severity burn > control or litter removal Most stems were seedlings
    red maple Burn treatments < control  

    Many understory species, including common cinquefoil, fourleaf yam, hillside blueberry, perfoliate bellwort, and sensitive fern, did not respond significantly to burning. These species may have failed to respond because they do not require litter removal, an open canopy, or heat to germinate or sprout. Other possible explanations include absence of seed in the soil, insufficient soil heating to trigger sprouting, and lack of topkill in standing stems [1].

    Nonnative Invasive Plant Study: Establishment of Japanese stiltgrass and multiflora rose was recorded in June and August 2004 and again in June 2005 (2, 4, and 14 months after treatment). Germination and seedling growth, as indicated by height and leaf number, responded positively to fire for both species, although both species showed at least some germination in almost all combinations of treatment, topographic position, and canopy openness. Burned plots in canopy gaps in valley positions provided optimum germination and growth [2,3].

    Approximately 7% of the Japanese stiltgrass seed sown immediately after treatments (April 2004) germinated in postfire year 1, with most germination before the end of June. Less than 2% of April-sown seed survived the winter to germinate in postfire year 2. Approximately 14% of seed sown 7 months after treatment (November 2004) germinated in postfire year 2—again, mostly before the end of June. In both postfire years, germination of Japanese stiltgrass was greatest in litter-removal plots and burned plots (both low- and moderate-severity), an effect enhanced by valley position and canopy gaps in postfire year 1 (P<0.05). Some recruitment occurred in control plots, especially on valley sites with canopy gaps. Four months after treatment, seedlings were significantly taller in moderate-severity burn plots than in other treatments and taller in canopy gaps than under closed canopies (P<0.05) [2].

    Approximately 1% of the multiflora rose seed sown immediately after treatments germinated in postfire year 1, most of it before the end of June. Less than 2% of April-sown seed survived the winter to germinate in postfire year 2. Approximately 2% of seed sown 7 months after treatment germinated in postfire year 2—again, mostly before the end of June. In the 1st postfire year, seedling recruitment was greater in burned and litter-removal plots than in control plots, with greatest recruitment in moderate-severity burn plots at valley positions with open canopies (P<0.05). Some recruitment occurred in control plots. Four months after treatment, seedlings were generally taller in moderate-severity burn plots than in other treatments. In the 2nd postfire year, germination was again greatest in burned plots and litter-removal plots [2].

    FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS:
    Native Plant Study: Fires introduced to mixed-deciduous forests in the Central Hardwoods region may change understory composition by increasing germination of disturbance-adapted species from the soil seed bank and promoting vegetative regeneration. Fire in these forests may favor mainly species that require litter removal for establishment [1].

    Nonnative Invasive Plant Study: Japanese stiltgrass and multiflora rose established most successfully in plots that were burned, had a relatively open canopy, or had litter removed; both species also established in unburned plots. Moist sites (in valley positions) were generally more invasible than drier, ridge sites. In field treatments, patches experiencing any fire, low- or moderate-severity, may provide local opportunities for establishment of Japanese stiltgrass; more severe fire in pockets of heavy fuel or on dry, south-facing slopes may create microsites highly suitable for establishment of multiflora rose. Recruitment of both species in the 2nd postfire year indicates that a site can remain vulnerable to invasion for at least 1 year after fire [2]. While this study demonstrated the potential for fire to increase establishment of 2 invasive species, it did not provide information on postfire sprouting of established plants or long-term persistence and spread of these species.

    Because fire increased the vulnerability of mixed-deciduous forests to invasion by Japanese stiltgrass and multiflora rose, the authors recommend avoiding use of prescribed fire near large populations of these species and reducing large populations in neighboring areas before burning. Because both invasives showed higher germination in canopy gaps than under a closed canopy, canopy disturbance should be minimized. If invasive species are already common on a site proposed for treatment, managers should weigh the benefits of burning or thinning against the risk of increasing invasion [2]. If management techniques will include thinning or prescribed fire, managers could prioritize moist sites and openings for monitoring and follow-up treatments to minimize invasion by Japanese stiltgrass and multiflora rose.
    APPENDIX: SPECIES INCLUDED IN THIS SUMMARY
    This Appendix lists the scientific and common names of species mentioned in this Research Project Summary. For further information on these species, follow the highlighted links to FEIS reviews.

    Common name Scientific name
    forbs
    fourleaf yam Dioscorea quaternata
    American burnweed Erechtites hieracifolia
    American pokeweed Phytolacca americana
    common cinquefoil Potentilla simplex
    perfoliate bellwort Uvularia perfoliata
    graminoid
    Japanese stiltgrass Microstegium vimineum
    fern
    sensitive fern Onoclea sensibilis
    liana
    grape species Vitis spp.
    shrubs
    smooth sumac Rhus glabra
    multiflora rose Rosa multiflora
    hillside blueberry Vaccinium pallidum
    trees
    red maple Acer rubrum
    sugar maple Acer saccharum
    hickory species Carya spp.
    yellow-poplar Liriodendron tulipifera
    black tupelo Nyssa sylvatica
    oak species Quercus spp.

    REFERENCES:


    1. Glasgow, Lance S.; Matlack, Glenn R. 2007. Prescribed burning and understory composition in a temperate deciduous forest, Ohio, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 238(1-3): 54-64. [65496]
    2. Glasgow, Lance S.; Matlack, Glenn R. 2007. The effects of prescribed burning and canopy openness on establishment of two non-native plant species in a deciduous forest, southeast Ohio, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 238(1-3): 319-329. [66854]
    3. Glasgow, Lance; Matlack, Glenn. 2006. Effects of prescribed burning on invasibility by nonnative plant species in the Central Hardwoods region. In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers: Proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 277. Abstract. [66419]
    4. Hann, Wendel; Havlina, Doug; Shlisky, Ayn; [and others]. 2008. Interagency fire regime condition class guidebook. Version 1.3, [Online]. In: Interagency fire regime condition class website. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior; The Nature Conservancy; Systems for Environmental Management (Producer). 119 p. Available: http://frames.nbii.gov/frcc/documents/FRCC_Guidebook_2008.07.10.pdf [2010, 3 May]. [70966]
    5. LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment. 2005. Reference condition modeling manual (Version 2.1), [Online]. In: LANDFIRE. Cooperative Agreement 04-CA-11132543-189. Boulder, CO: The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior (Producers). 72 p. Available: http://www.landfire.gov/downloadfile.php?file=RA_Modeling_Manual_v2_1.pdf [2007, May 24]. [66741]
    6. LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment. 2007. Rapid assessment reference condition models, [Online]. In: LANDFIRE. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Lab; U.S. Geological Survey; The Nature Conservancy (Producers). Available: http://www.landfire.gov/models_EW.php [2008, April 18] [66533]

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