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Wetlands

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 35–44 | Cite as

Does Prescribed Fire Benefit Wetland Vegetation?

  • Conception FloresEmail author
  • Dixie L. Bounds
  • Douglas E. Ruby
Article

Abstract

The effects of fire on wetland vegetation in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States are poorly known, despite the historical use of fire by federal, state, and private landowners in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Prescribed fire is widely used by land managers to promote vegetation that is beneficial to migratory waterfowl, muskrats, and other native wildlife and to reduce competition from less desirable plant species. We compared vegetative response to two fire rotations, annual burns and 3-year burns, and two control sites, Control 1 and Control 2. We tested the effects of fire within six tidal marsh wetlands at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area in Maryland. We examined changes in total live biomass (all species), total stem density, litter, and changes in live biomass and stem density of four dominant wetland plant species (11 variables). Our results suggest that annual prescribed fires will decrease the accumulation of litter, increase the biomass and stem densities of some wetland plants generally considered less desirable for wildlife, and have little or no effect on other wetland plants previously thought to benefit from fire.

Keywords

Biomass Distichlis spicata Marsh Schoenoplectus americanus Spartina alterniflora Spartina patens Stem density 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for funding the project. We are grateful to Bjorn Burgeson, Katherine Thorington, Fred Adams, and Alice Brown for assistance in biomass collection. Thanks to the Blackwater NWR staff, especially, Glenn Carowan, Bill Giese, Keith Morris, Roger Stone, and the Blackwater Fire Crew. Statistical assistance and support was provided by Jeff S. Hatfield, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; Dr. Mary Christman, University of Maryland College Park; Dr. Patricia Jones, University of Arizona; Dr. David Turner, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station; and Dawn Lawson and Toni Mizerek, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Copyright information

© US Government 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Conception Flores
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dixie L. Bounds
    • 1
    • 3
  • Douglas E. Ruby
    • 4
  1. 1.U. S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Maryland Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitUniversity of Maryland Eastern ShorePrincess AnneUSA
  2. 2.Naval Facilities Engineering Command SouthwestSan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Ecological Services OfficeTulsaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Natural SciencesUniversity of Maryland Eastern ShorePrincess AnneUSA

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