Date of this Version
Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, vol. 5 (1978)
Fires were a natural environmental factor in the development of the b1uestem prairie of North America. They occurred throughout the year including summer months when the region receives most of its annual rainfall (Moore, 1972). Since green vegetation, at its peak during the summer, is unlikely to support a fire alone, the principal fuel for summer fires is standing dead and litter accumulated during previous growing seasons. Previous studies indicate that grasslands can support a fire when the moisture content of combined standing live and dead plant matter is as high as 38% (Bragg, 1978). The length of time that moisture from rainfall is retained by standing dead material is likely to influence the rate of spread of lightning-caused fires. Vogl (1974) suggested that, once ignited, a fire may persist despite rainfall. A rapid rate of drying, therefore, would allow a fire from a lightning strike to spread more rapidly than would a slower drying rate. This is an important consideration in the study of grassland fire ecology. Rapid drying of standing dead has been previously noted (Budowski, 1966; Vogl, 1969), but not quantified. This study, therefore, was initiated to provide preliminary, quantitative data on the rate of dry-down of grassland vegetation using one grass species evaluated at one time of the year.