Plant succession and various environmental conditions can decrease productivity of wetlands managed intensively for wildlife. Although prescribed fire frequently is used to alter plant composition and structure in semipermanent wetlands, the impacts of fire on species composition and production of seed in moist-soil impoundments have not been quantified. Therefore, I compared species composition, seed production, and soil macronutrient concentrations at the end of the growing season on unburned control sites (n=3) and sites burned in spring (n=3) and summer (n=3) in southeast Missouri. Sites burned in spring contained a greater (P≤0.05) percent cover of beggarticks (Bidens spp. [31.4±4.7%]) and ricecut grass (Leersia oryzoides [50.3±7.0%]) than control and summer-burned sites. The percent cover of marsh elder (Iva ciliata) was reduced (P<0.05) on spring-burned sites (16.6±2.2%) compared to control sites (25.2±2.3%) but was lowest on sites burned in summer (0.2±0.2%). In contrast, the frequency of occurrence (100.0±0.0%) and percent cover (76.9±5.9%) of bare ground was greater (P<0.05) on sites burned in summer than on control and spring-burned sites. Summer fires also increased (P<0.05) the frequency of occurrence and percent cover of morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea [30.0±10% occurrence; 0.4±0.1% cover]) and sesbania (Sebania exaltata [70.0±10.0% occurrence; 5.3±0.5% cover]). Total seed biomass also differed (P<0.05) among treatments; sites burned in spring produced the most seed (33.7±3.9 g m−2), followed by control (12.6 gm−2) and summer-burned sites (0.0±0.0 g m−2). Soil pH, organic matter content, neutralizable acidity, cation exchange capacity, and concentrations of P, K, Ca, and NO3-N did not differ (P>0.05) among control sites and sites burned in spring and summer. In general, burning in spring improved habitat and food conditions for waterfowl, whereas burning in summer reduced the prevalence of both desirable and undesirable vegetation and created habitat conditions that favored shorebirds.
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Laubhan, M.K. Effects of prescribed fire on moist-soil vegetation and soil macronutrients. Wetlands 15, 159–166 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03160669