Prescribed Fire Management in Sandplain Grasslands and Heathlands: Impacts of Burn Seasonality and Intensity on Vegetation Composition, Head of the Plains, Nantucket MA

Title:  Prescribed Fire Management in Sandplain Grasslands and Heathlands: Impacts of Burn Seasonality and Intensity on Vegetation Composition, Head of the Plains, Nantucket MA (2014)

Author: Jennifer Karberg, Nantucket Conservation Foundation

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Abstract: The effectiveness of prescribed fire as a tool for maintaining sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands by reducing the encroachment of woody species and perpetuating important plant species has not been definitively documented (Dunwiddie, 1998; Niering & Dreyer, 1989; Vickery, 2002). Efforts to restore or create sandplain grassland and coastal heathland communities from current shrub dominated areas have seen limited success, placing high conservation priority on preventing existing grasslands and heathlands from succeeding to woody-dominated habitats. This research project was designed and initiated to examine the effectiveness of dormant season (spring and fall) and growing season (late summer) prescribed fire as a tool for maintaining existing grassland and heathland communities and reducing the cover of woody species in coastal heathland habitat adjacent to existing grasslands. The goals of this research are to: 1) Document the effectiveness of prescribed fire as a means of maintaining and increasing sandplain grassland and coastal heathland habitat composition, and;  2) Compare the effectiveness of spring dormant season, fall dormant season, and growing season (late summer) prescribed fire in reducing the abundance of woody species in areas of coastal heathland habitat.