Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Summer 8-5-2016

Abstract

At the western edge of the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) range, federal land managers have burned the forests of Big Thicket National Preserve to bring back the structure and diversity of the longleaf pine forest. In the early 1990’s, a four year study was conducted by Rice University, and the National Park Service continued monitoring the study’s fire ecology research plots. After two decades of data collection, ordination was applied to species abundance data to examine changes in vegetation communities from a variety of prescribed fire treatments and controls. The vegetation data was separated by size class to include overstory, small tree, sapling, and seedling data. Across the size classes and treatments, the sandhill and wetland savanna vegetation types remained less effected by fire treatments and only the upland pine responded to changes in the overstory. Although fire management had an effect on vegetation types, upon reviewing prescribed histories, it became evident that prescribed fire alone was not changing vegetation communities to foster longleaf pine habitat. Most of the plots did not have longleaf pine trees or seedlings present and two plots that were mechanically treated showed distinction among other treatment regimes. Restoration treatments including the mechanical and chemical application and seedling plantings are necessary to ensure restoration of the longleaf pine forest structure and diverse understory vegetation.

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