Effects of varying fire frequencies on pine plains vegetation at Warren Grove Air National Guard Range.
McKessey, Anika*,1, Bien, Walter1, Spotila, James1, 1 Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
ABSTRACT- Fire is associated with maintenance of vegetation community structure, specifically altering species richness and species composition in Northeastern USA forests. Fire frequency appears to be a dominant factor in the development of pine plains vegetation in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Warren Grove Air National Guard Range (WGR) is located in the East Plains of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Since 1985, WGR has used cool season prescribed burning for hazard reduction as a part of its fire management plan. Approximately 3000 acres of WGR consists of globally rare dwarf pine plains vegetation type, believed to be influenced by high frequency of warm season wildfires. We examined effects of fire frequency on pine plains vegetation at three wildfire sites (last burned in 1959, 1971, and 2000) and three prescribed burn sites (last burned in 1998, 2001 and 2002). There was no significant difference in species richness of trees and shrubs among burn sites. Density of oak trees did not differ among sites but pine tree densities were greater in older burn sites than more recent burn sites (p = 0.028). There were no significant differences in shrub coverage and oak tree canopy coverage among sites. However pine tree canopy coverage was significantly greater (p = 0.001) in older areas than in more recently burned areas. Our results suggest that the current fire management strategy employed at WGR appears to maintain a typical pine plains vegetative community.
Key words: fire, biodiversity
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