Some herbage responses to fire on pine-wiregrass range

  • Published source details Lewis C.E. & Hart R.H. (1972) Some herbage responses to fire on pine-wiregrass range. Journal of Range Management, 25, 209-213.


In the pine-wiregrass region of southern Georgia, southeast Alabama and Florida (southern USA), fire has been suggested as important in promoting and maintaining high forage yields, and without it, many characteristic wiregrass Aristida spp. degenerate and decline. Fire also slows gallberry Ilex glabra(a major noxious shrub in pine-wiregrass habitat) growth, as well as controlling other woody species. This study assessed the effects of prescribed burns on two sites of differing soil type on the Alapaha Experimental Range in southern Georgia.

One site was on Olustee fine sand and one on Plummer sand. The former was wetter and had no pineland threeawn Aristida stricta.Common forage plants on both included Curtiss dropseed Sporobolus curtissii, bluestems Andropogon spp., panicum grasses Panicum spp., toothachegrass Ctenium aromaticum and several forbs.
Half of the study plots on each site were burned and half were unburned but hand clipped and herbaceous vegetation removed. On the Olustee site, a randomized design of 38 burned (February 1964) and 38 unburned plots was used. On the Plummer site, a randomized block design (three replications, 18sample plots in each) was used; half of each block was burned (January 1965).
Herbage production were sampled in 9.6 ft² (0.89 m²) subplots (prior to, and in October after burning) for a number of years. Average gallberry height was determined, stems per subplot counted, and percentage ground cover estimated per plot.

Burning resulted in significantly increased in total herbage yields (as measured the following October) on both sites (Olustee 1,020 lb/acre; Plummer 1,920 lb/acre). Removal by clipping resulted in a similar increase on the Plummer site (1,830 lb/acre), but a significant decrease on the Olustee site (700 lb/acre) which is not easily explained but perhaps in part due to greater litter accumulation.

Burning initially reduced gallberry cover and size (removing stems to ground level) but within 9 months they were about half as tall (38-46 cm) as the unburned stems (71-76 cm). Within 9 months on the Plummer site, there were no significant differences in number of stems or cover, gallberry fully recovering by resprouting. On the Olustee site, number of stems was significantly greater and ground cover was significantly less on the burned than on the unburned plots.

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