Advisor(s) - Committee Chair
Albert Meier (Director), Lawrence Alice, Keith Philips
Department of Biology
Master of Science
The effects of fire on vernal herbs of the mesic forests of eastern North America are poorly understood. I studied the influence of prescribed fire on species richness, abundance of rare and common species, and density of exotics in the vernal herbaceous layer. To determine these effects, three sites in central Kentucky were surveyed prior to and following one of three treatments: spring burn, winter burn, or negative control. I conducted low-intensity spring burns in April 2010 and winter burns in February 2011. I used chi square analyses to test for changes in species richness, abundance of rare species, abundance of common species, and abundance of Glechoma hederacea, an exotic herb. I used multiple logistic regressions to test for the effect of burn severity on the abundance of two of the most common herbs, Erythronium americanum and Viola sororia sensu lato. The abundance of rare species increased significantly after fire treatment, with a 2% greater increase on burned plots than control plots (p < 0.05), and showed a 40% greater increase in plots burned in winter than plots burned in spring. However, there was no significant difference in overall species richness due to fire or to the season in which the prescribed fire was conducted. There were no significant differences in the density of common species or Glechoma hederacea due to fire treatment or due to fire season. There were also no significant differences in the abundances of Erythronium americanum or Viola sororia sensu lato due to burn severity. Changes in the abundance of rare species due to fire might suggest that prescribed burns may slightly increase the diversity of vernal herbs in eastern mesic forests. Changes in the abundance of rare species due to fire season might suggest that prescribed fires conducted prior to emergence may further increase the diversity of vernal herbs in the eastern mesic forest.
Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Forest Biology | Forest Sciences
Kem, David Randolph, "The Effects of Fire on the Vernal Herbs of an Eastern Mesic Forest" (2013). Masters Theses & Specialist Projects. Paper 1240.