Wildland fires can cause shifts in understory species composition and production. Many studies have examined short-term changes in understory vegetation following a wildfire; however, very few long term studies are available. The objective of this study was to examine changes in understory (herb and shrub) species composition and production since the 1972 Rattle Burn wildfire on the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. Understory species composition and production were originally sampled in 1972, 1974, and 1980 and were re-sampled during July and August of 2002 and 2003 on 30 plots in each of four sites: high severity burn, low severity burn, unburned site prescribed burned in 1977, and an unburned site. Repeated measures analysis was used to test for the effects of fire and time on species production. The effects of fire and time on species composition as well as species production were tested using Multi-Response Permutation Procedures (MRPP). A lingering effect of the Rattle Burn wildfire on the understory plant production and composition was revealed. Burned sites may have greater understory production as compared to unburned sites up to 30 years after a wildfire. However, species composition on burned sites is altered. A significant relationship between tree density and understory species composition and production was found for 1972, but no relationship was found for overstory parameters and understory species production and composition for 2003.
Bataineh, Amanda L.; Oswald, Brian P.; Bataineh, Mohammad M.; Williams, Hans M.; and Coble, Dean W., "Changes in understory vegetation of a ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona 30 years after a Wildfire" (2006). Faculty Publications. 15.