Winter Burning and the Reduction of Cornus sericea in Sedge Meadows in Southern Wisconsin


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    Present address: 700 Cajundome Boulevard, National Wetlands Research Center, USGS, Lafayette, LA 70506, U.S.A. E-mail:


To control shrubs, which are increasing in dominance in wetlands worldwide, winter burning may be an important tool, especially from the perspective of minimizing urban hazards. The goal of this project was to determine if winter burning was successful in reducing the dominance (mean percentage cover and maximum height) of Cornus sericea in sedge meadows in southern Wisconsin, where shrubs proliferated after cattle were excluded. Experimental burn and control plots were set up within sedge meadows, including an ungrazed “reference” site that had been little, if ever, grazed and a “historically grazed” site, a recovery site that had not been grazed by cattle since 1973. None of the dominant species including C. sericea was significantly affected by burning for either mean percentage cover or maximum height (analysis of variance: no burning × species interaction). Both mean percentage cover and maximum height were only weakly related to burning (28.1 and 14.3% of the variability contributed to the cumulative percentage of the coefficient of determination, respectively) at both sites based on non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis. Although species richness increased in burned plots in 1999 and 2000, no differences were apparent between pre-burned and unburned plots in 1997 and unburned plots in 1999 and 2000 (analysis of variance: year × burning interaction). After burning in the ungrazed site, herbaceous species appeared that had not been detected for decades, including Chelone glabra and Lathyrus palustris. Exotic species were present in both the ungrazed reference and recovery site. Although winter burning treatments did not reduce the dominance of woody shrub species in the site recovering from cattle grazing, burning was useful in stimulating the maintenance of species richness in the ungrazed sedge meadow.