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Vegetation response to prescribed fire in Mid-Atlantic brackish marshes.
Bickford, WA; Needelman, BA; Weil, RR; Baldwin, AH
Prescribed fire management generally stimulates plant biomass production in coastal marsh systems. This study was conducted to understand the interactive effects of the mechanisms of fire on vegetation production. The effects of canopy removal and ash deposition on biomass production were investigated in two manipulative experiments at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Dorchester County, MD. On non-burned sites, canopy removal increased biomass production above and belowground (40 and 260 %, respectively), while ash deposition showed no effect on production. On burned sites, post-burn canopy replacement decreased biomass production above and belowground (41 and 40 %, respectively). Production increased more in response to canopy removal at sites dominated by Schoenoplectus americanus than at sites dominated by Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata. Canopy removal was the dominant mechanism through which fire affected biomass production in this study. If increased biomass production is a desirable outcome, prescribed fire programs may benefit by maximizing canopy removal.
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