Abstract - Effects of Prescribed Burning at Different Fuel Moisture Levels on Vegetation and Soils of Grasslands in Wind Cave National Park

Worcester, Lynda Lou. 1979. Effects of Prescribed Burning at Different Fuel Moisture Levels on Vegetation and Soils of Grasslands in Wind Cave National Park. MS Thesis. South Dakota State University. 101+ p.


Prescribed burning has had a short history of use as a management tool for grassland ecosystems. A paucity of information is available concerning the effects of burning grassland vegetation at different fuel moisture levels.

There is ample documentation of the varied effects of burning on the grassland vegetation of humid regions as affected by season of occurance, successional stage of the ecosystem, kind and density of vegetation, and phenological stage of the dominant vegetation. There is also abundant information on the effect of fire on forest ecosystems and on some grasslands invaded by woody plants, especially in the southwestern United States. In forest-prairie transition zones, forests tend to occupy rough topography and grasslands more gently rolling topography. Soil and climate are determinants in the occurance of grasslands, but fires have maintained the spatial distribution and extent of grasslands for milleniums. Recent control of fires by man has permitted forest encroachment into many grassland ecosystems (Gartner and Thompson, 1973; Lovass, 1976). Relatively little information is available on the effects of burning on grassland vegetation in semi-arid and arid regions.

Researchers have determined that season of prescribed burning has a marked effect on community composition. Yield and vigor have been found to be affected; the extent and severity of these effects are determined by state of phenological maturity for the individual components of the community at the time of ignition. Fuel moisture and soil moisture appear to be critical factors in the response of vegetative communities to prescribed burning. Information specific to South Dakota climatic regimes and plant communities is needed for proper resource management.

The objectives of this study were to examine the effects of prescribed burning at varied fuel and surface soil moisture levels on selected plant communities. Vegetative composition, yield and changes in soil chemistry were selected as criteria to evaluate the influence of the variables in the experimental design. Quantification of these aforementioned variables is needed for the formulation of realistice, ecologically effective burning procedures.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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