Heathlands, prescribed fire, disturbance, sandplain heathlands, ordination
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.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Martin, Kirsten, "Disturbance-based Management And Plant Species Change In Massachusetts Sandplain Heathlands Over The Past Two Decades" (2013). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2658.