Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Oecologia 150:3 (2006), pp. 477–483.

doi: 10.1007/s00442-006-0535-8

PMID: 16941181


Copyright © 2006 Springer-Verlag. Used by permission.


The paradigm in prairie ecology is that fire is one of the key factors deter-mining vegetation composition. fire can impact grassland ecosystems in various ways, including changing plant species composition and inducing nitro-gen loss. I found that 17 years of different burning frequencies in infertile grassland had only a minor impact on the vegetation composition and diversity. The only major impact from increasing the frequency of fires was a decrease of Poa pratensis abundance. However, other plant species did not r-spond to the change in Poa abundance. This result contrasts with previous studies in savannas and more productive grasslands, where the balance be-tween trees, grasses, and the elimination of the litter layer can result in large vegetation changes. However, in this system primary productivity was low, litter did not accumulate and no major vegetation shifts occurred. Thus, the long-term vegetation impacts of burning in an infertile, low-productivity prairie were minimal.