5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Monday, 17 November 2003
The effects of prescribed fire on herbaceous species and midstory density at Gulf Islands National Seashore: A Preliminary Evaluation
Lisa Marino McInnis, National Park Service, Tupelo, MS; and A. Ruth
The fire monitoring program utilized by the National Park Service has been established in order to document basic fire effects, detect trends, and to ensure that each park meets its fire and resource management objectives. Past fire suppression at Gulf Islands National Seashore has resulted in increased density of woody vegetation and a concomitant decrease in native herbaceous species. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the ability of fire to decrease density of pole and seedling hardwood species and to increase the herbaceous component of understory.

The study area was relatively flat to gently sloping (020 feet in elevation). Soils were classified as entisols of the Ortega (moderately well drained) and Kureb (excessively drained, very droughty) series. The study area was dominated by oaks (Quercus spp.) and sand pine (Pinus clausa). The sand pine overstory (trees >15 cm) density was variable, ranging from absent or sparse or to nearly 100% crown closure. The midstory was characterized by dense thickets of oaks, including sand live (Q. geminata), Chapman (Q. chapmanii), laurel (Q. laurifolia), and turkey (Q. laevis) ranging from 10-100% cover. Shrubs included myrtle oak (Q. myrtifolia), rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides), sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and Ilex spp. (20-90% cover). Ground cover was often sparse (020% cover) and consisted mostly of grasses (Andropogon, Panicum spp.), sedges (Rhyncospora spp.), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), gopher apple (Licania michauxii), and lichens.

Permanent study plots (20 m by 50 m) were randomly located within the study area in 2000. All overstory trees equal to or larger than 15.1 cm within the study plot were measured at diameter at breast height (DBH) and identified by species. The same information was recorded in one half of the plot for pole-sized trees (2.5 cm-15 cm). The species and height class of all seedlings within a 25 m by 2 m area were also recorded. The point intercept method was used to determine the species of all herbaceous plants along a 50-m transect. Additional species occurring within a 5-m belt on either side of the transect were also recorded. Preliminary data from two years postburn will be presented and discussed in relation to other studies within the area.

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