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Citation. Knops, J.M.H. 2006. Fire does not alter vegetation in infertile prairie. OECOLOGIA 150:477-483.

Abstract. The paradigm in prairie ecology is that fire is one of the key factors determining vegetation composition. Fire can impact grassland ecosystems in various ways, including changing plant species composition and inducing nitrogen loss. I found that 17 years of different burning frequencies in infertile grassland had only a minor impact on the vegetation composition and diversity. The only major impact from increasing the frequency of fires was a decrease of Poa pratensis abundance. However, other plant species did not respond to the change in Poa abundance. This result contrasts with previous studies in savannas and more productive grasslands, where the balance between trees, grasses, and the elimination of the litter layer can result in large vegetation changes. However, in this system primary productivity was low, litter did not accumulate and no major vegetation shifts occurred. Thus, the long-term vegetation impacts of burning in an infertile, low-productivity prairie were minimal.

Key words: Fire - Net primary productivity - Nitrogen - Old field - Prairie - Vegetation composition


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