Skip to Main Content
Fire and the herbaceous layer of eastern oak forestsAuthor(s): Todd Hutchinson
Source: In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. 2006. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 136-149.
Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
Station: Northern Research Station
PDF: Download Publication (352.04 KB)
DescriptionAcross oak forest landscapes, the herbaceous layer supports the great majority of plant diversity. As the use of prescribed fire increases, it is important to better understand its effects on biodiversity. This paper reviews the current ?state of the knowledge? regarding fire effects on herbaceous layer vegetation. In typical dormant-season fires, direct heating effects are minimal on most herbaceous plants (forbs, grasses, sedges). Although woody plants are topkilled, nearly all resprout. Fire indirectly affects the herb layer by altering the forest floor and soil environments. The consumption of leaf litter during fire stimulates germination for a number of seedbanking species. Three case studies (oak forests in Missouri and Ohio, oak barrens in Illinois) of herb-layer response to fire are reviewed. These and other studies show that species richness and the cover of herbaceous plants usually increase after fire. Fire can have unique effects on herbaceous communities that are not realized with mechanical treatments (e.g., partial harvesting) alone. Although prescribed fire is commonly applied to maintain open-structured habitats that often contain rare plants, it also could be a useful management tool for sustaining and enhancing rare plant populations in upland oak forests. What is lacking most from our knowledge of how fire regimes affect the herbaceous layer of oak forests is: 1) the longterm effects of fire suppression, and 2) the long-term effects of periodic application of prescribed fire.
- Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
- Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
- During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
- Please contact Sharon Hobrla, firstname.lastname@example.org if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationHutchinson, Todd. 2006. Fire and the herbaceous layer of eastern oak forests. In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. 2006. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 136-149.
- Community-Level Impacts of Management and Disturbance in Western Michigan Oak Savannas
- Vegetative characteristics of oak savannas in the southwestern United States: a comparative analysis with oak woodlands in the region
- Repeated burning alters the structure and composition of hardwood regeneration in oak-dominated forests of eastern Kentucky, USA
XML: View XML