|Title||The influence of fire on Spartina pectinata wetland communities in a northeastern Kansas tallgrass prairie|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||1995|
|Authors||Johnson, SR, Knapp, AK|
|Journal||Canadian Journal of Botany|
Wetlands dominated by the C4 grass Spartina pectinata were investigated to quantify differences in plant species composition and diversity in response to fire frequency. The study site was a tallgrass prairie in northeastern Kansas that included Spartina wetlands subjected to spring fires at 1-, 2-, 4-, 10-, and 20-year intervals. Because C3 forbs in these wetlands responded strongly to different fire frequencies, the light environment and gas exchange responses of the ubiquitous forb Asclepias syriaca were also assessed. In general, species diversity was lower in annually burned wetlands because of lower forb diversity. Maximum H′ in annually burned sites was 1.64 versus 2.77 in 10- and 20-year burned sites. However, individual forb responses varied. Asclepias increased and Solidago canadensis and Galium aparine decreased in importance with increasing fire frequency. Canopy sunlight interception was greater in annually burned wetlands than in wetlands with lower burn frequencies. Despite reduced light availability, midseason photosynthetic rates of Asclepias were higher in annually burned sites. The results suggest that frequent fire in tallgrass prairie wetlands results in less diverse plant communities, similar to responses of upland prairie, and that the timing of fire, relative to life history and phenology of the subordinate species, strongly influences responses of individual forbs. Key words: wetlands, tallgrass prairie, Spartina pectinata communities, fire.