Keywords

Heathlands, prescribed fire, disturbance, sandplain heathlands, ordination

Abstract

Massachusetts sandplain heathlands are habitats of conservation concern, harboring many rare plant species and providing habitat for animals that depend on openlands. These heathlands are threatened by human development, shrub encroachment in the absence of disturbance, and potentially increasing soil nutrient levels. Sandplain heathlands are managed with prescribed fire, in order to maintain their open structure and maintain species diversity. In order to assess how past management was correlated with species change, I used a data set that spanned twenty years from three different heathlands in Massachusetts. I looked for correlations between management and species change. Correlations between species change and prescribed burning were very site, or microsite, specific, indicating that variables such as vegetation type and edaphic characteristics need to be taken into account before management is applied. Prescribed fire was also associated with an increase in ruderal species in one of the sites studied, indicating that there may be undesirable effects of prescribed fire in this system. Species diversity was negatively associated with shrub encroachment, reinforcing the importance of preventing shrubs from encroaching into these heathlands. I also found evidence that burning has not been a successful technique in preventing shrub encroachment in these sites. Lastly, the nitrophilic species Carex pensylvanica increased in all three sites, indicating that future studies should investigate the possibility that sandplain heathlands are currently experiencing nitrogen deposition beyond their critical loads.

Notes

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Graduation Date

2013

Semester

Summer

Advisor

VonHolle, Mary

Degree

Master of Science (M.S.)

College

College of Sciences

Department

Biology

Degree Program

Biology

Format

application/pdf

Identifier

CFE0004886

URL

http://purl.fcla.edu/fcla/etd/CFE0004886

Language

English

Release Date

August 2013

Length of Campus-only Access

None

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Subjects

Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic

Restricted to the UCF community until August 2013; it will then be open access.

Included in

Biology Commons

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