Environmental Management

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 810–821 | Cite as

Vegetation Composition, Dynamics, and Management of a Bracken–Grassland and Northern–Dry Forest Ecosystem

  • Scott E. Nielsen
  • Alan Haney
Regular Article


We investigated differences in vegetation composition and dynamics for two globally rare ecosystems, bracken–grasslands and northern–dry forests of northern Wisconsin. These ecosystems commonly have been viewed as degraded pine barrens. Bracken–grasslands contained a high dominance of exotic species, low native richness, and no obvious prairie species, suggesting logging-era anthropogenic origins. Differences in cover for common plants among ecosystems were examined using Mann-Whitney U tests of equivalence. Cover of all 8 graminoid species, 4 of 5 Ericaceae and Myricaceae species, and 10 of 17 species of forbs were significantly different between ecosystems. Vegetation changes over a 4-year period were examined through detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) and analysis of variance (ANOVA) repeated measures. DCA analyses of community composition failed to detect significant temporal trends within individual management units, although differences were apparent between ecosystems, regardless of sample year. In addition, no apparent patterns could be detected between years when comparing dominant individual species to management history (prescribed fire). This is contrary to what would be expected for a degraded pine barrens and questions the efficacy of using repeated prescribed fire as a management tool in bracken–grasslands. Methods for conservation and restoration of xeric ecosystems of northern Wisconsin have historically relied heavily on single species (e.g., sharp-tailed grouse) wildlife models, without full consideration of other factors. We suggest that stakeholders involved in these restoration projects examine historic processes and reference conditions prior to formulating management goals. Greater attention to the differentiation and individual management needs of pine barrens, northern–dry forests, and bracken–grasslands is needed.


Bracken–grasslands Natural areas Northern–dry forests Pine barrens Prescribed fire Vegetation dynamics Wisconsin 



Special thanks go to B. Jessen, the coordinator and program director of the Savanna Partnership at the Sand County Foundation (SCF) during this project. Other personnel from SCF that have helped in ways too numerous to mention include R. Coleman, B. Haglund, L. Kearney, K. McAleese, A. Miller, and J. Scott. B. Haglund provided numerous conversations during analysis. Field help in 1995 was provided by A. Collada, M. Grover, M. Sheehan, and D. Taylor. A. Collada, B. Jessen, R. Power, and M. Sheehan helped during the second field season (1999). N. Cutright and Wisconsin Electric Power Company provided lodging and GIS data through Stagerwalt Land Services, Inc. S. Borren provided logistical support and background on management history. This project was made possible through the Wisconsin Savanna Partnership with funds from the Department of Defense Legacy Project (1995), the Sand County Foundation (1995 and 1999), and MacIntire-Stennis grant number WIS04325 (1999).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Alberta, Edmonton, AlbertaCanada T6G 2E9
  2. 2.College of Natural ResourcesUniversity of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin 54481USA

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