Micro-Scale Restoration: A 25-Year History of a Southern Illinois Barrens

Authors

  • Roger C. Anderson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Behavior , Ecology, Evolution and Systematics Section, Department of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Campus Box 4120, Normal, Illinois 61790-4120, U.S.A.
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  • John E. Schwegman,

    1. 3626 Riverpoint Lane , Metropolis, Illinois 62906, U.S.A.
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  • M. Rebecca Anderson

    1. Behavior , Ecology, Evolution and Systematics Section, Department of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Campus Box 4120, Normal, Illinois 61790-4120, U.S.A.
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 Address correspondence to R. C. Anderson, email rcander@ilstu.edu

Abstract

We studied vegetation change of a remnant barrens in southern Illinois over twenty-five years. The study area was periodically burned between 1969 and 1993, but fire was excluded for a 16-year period (1974–1989). During the study, the barrens supported a mixture of species whose preferred habitats ranged from prairie and open woodlands to closed forest communities. The herbaceous vegetation may be on a trajectory characterized by increasing dominance of woodland species and declining prairie species. Fire management temporarily reversed this trend, but it continued once fire was excluded. Reintroduction of prescribed burning in 1990–1993 altered the vegetation trajectory but not back toward a species composition comparable to that present on the site before cessation of fire management after 1973. Following interruption of prescribed burning, tree basal area more than doubled, and density showed a 67% increase between premanagement conditions in 1968 and 1988. Salix humilis (prairie willow) density had significant negative correlations with tree density and basal area. However, there was no consistency in response of shrub species on the site to the varied site conditions over time. Fire management on the site may not recover the historic barrens that occurred on the site. Nevertheless, consistent fire management will drive vegetation changes toward increasing abundance of prairie and open woodland species that would otherwise be lost without burning.

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