Effects of habitat and growing season fires on resprouting of shrubs in longleaf pine savannas

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The effects of habitat and timing of growing season fires on resprouting of shrubs were studied in second-growth longleaf pine savannas of the west Gulf coastal plain in the southeastern United States. Within the headwaters of three different drainages of the Calcasieu River in the Kisatchie National Forest in western Louisiana, replicated permanent transects were established that extended from xeric upland longleaf pine savannas into downslope hydric seepage savannas. All shrubs were mapped and tagged, and numbers of stems were counted prior to any fires. Replicated prescribed fires were set early (June) and late (August) during the 1990 growing season; maximum fire temperatures were measured within both upland and seepage habitats within each transect. Shrubs were relocated; stems were recensused two and twelve months after the fires. At least some shrubs of all species resprouted from underground organs; none regenerated solely from seed banks in the soil. There was no reduction in total numbers of stems one year after fires compared to before fires, either in the upland or in seepage savannas. In addition, there was no reduction in total numbers of stems one year after early or late growing season fires. Fire-related mortality was restricted to small shrubs (< 18 stems) and was not associated with high fire temperatures. The rate of resprouting varied among species and between habitats. Resprouting occurred more rapidly in seepage than upland savannas, but more resprouts were produced in upland than seepage savannas one year after fires. In contrast to other upland species, Vaccinium arboreum and V. elliottii delayed resprouting more than two months following fire. Stems of Rhus copallina and Pyrus arbutifolia, species with long rhizomes, increased more after fires in June than fires in August. We suggest that growing season fires may block further recruitment of shrubs into longleaf pine savannas, but reduction in numbers of large shrubs may require additional management. © 1995 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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