J Plant Ecol ›› 2018, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (4): 576-584.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtx022

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of experimental season of prescribed fire and nutrient addition on structure and function of previously grazed grassland

Elizabeth H. Boughton1,*, Patrick J. Bohlen2 and Julia H. Maki3   

  1. 1 MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center, 300 Buck Island Ranch Road, Lake Placid, FL 33852, USA; 2 University of Central Florida Biology, 4110 Libra Drive, Orlando, FL 32816, USA; 3 School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida, 103 Black Hall, PO Box 116455, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
  • Received:2016-06-13 Accepted:2017-03-28 Published:2018-05-23
  • Contact: Boughton, Elizabeth

Abstract: Aims Understanding the drivers of grassland structure and function following livestock removal will inform grassland restoration and management. Here, we investigated the effects of fire and nutrient addition on structure and function in a subtropical semi-native grassland recently released from grazing in south-central Florida. We examined responses of soil nutrients, plant tissue nutrients, biomass of live, standing dead and litter, and plant species composition to experimental annual prescribed fire applied during different seasons (wet season vs. dry season), and nutrient additions (N, P and N + P) over 9 years.
Methods Experimental plots were set up in a randomized block split-plot design, with season of prescribed fire as the main treatment and nutrient addition as the subplot treatment. Species cover data were collected annually from 2002 to 2011 and plant tissue and plant biomass data were collected in 2002–2006 and 2011. Soil nutrients were analyzed in 2004, 2006 and 2011.
Important findings Soil total phosphorus (P) levels increased substantially with P addition but were not influenced by prescribed fire. Addition of P and N led to increased P and N concentrations in live plant tissues, but prescribed fire reduced N in live tissue. Levels of tissue N were higher in all plots at the beginning of the experiment, an effect that was likely due to grazing activity prior to removal of livestock. Plant tissue N steadily declined over time in all plots, with annually burned plots declining faster than unburned plots. Prescribed fire was an important driver of standing dead and litter biomass and was important for maintaining grass biomass and percent cover. Nutrient addition was also important: the addition of both N and P was associated with greater live biomass and woody forbs. Removal of grazing, lack of prescribed fire, and addition of N + P led to a reduction of grass biomass and a large increase in biomass of a woody forb. Annual prescribed fire promoted N loss from the system by reducing standing dead and litter, but maintained desirable biomass of grasses.

Key words: grassland, nutrient enrichment, nutrient limitation, prescribed fire, productivity

摘要:
Aims Understanding the drivers of grassland structure and function following livestock removal will inform grassland restoration and management. Here, we investigated the effects of fire and nutrient addition on structure and function in a subtropical semi-native grassland recently released from grazing in south-central Florida. We examined responses of soil nutrients, plant tissue nutrients, biomass of live, standing dead and litter, and plant species composition to experimental annual prescribed fire applied during different seasons (wet season vs. dry season), and nutrient additions (N, P and N + P) over 9 years.
Methods Experimental plots were set up in a randomized block split-plot design, with season of prescribed fire as the main treatment and nutrient addition as the subplot treatment. Species cover data were collected annually from 2002 to 2011 and plant tissue and plant biomass data were collected in 2002–2006 and 2011. Soil nutrients were analyzed in 2004, 2006 and 2011.
Important findings Soil total phosphorus (P) levels increased substantially with P addition but were not influenced by prescribed fire. Addition of P and N led to increased P and N concentrations in live plant tissues, but prescribed fire reduced N in live tissue. Levels of tissue N were higher in all plots at the beginning of the experiment, an effect that was likely due to grazing activity prior to removal of livestock. Plant tissue N steadily declined over time in all plots, with annually burned plots declining faster than unburned plots. Prescribed fire was an important driver of standing dead and litter biomass and was important for maintaining grass biomass and percent cover. Nutrient addition was also important: the addition of both N and P was associated with greater live biomass and woody forbs. Removal of grazing, lack of prescribed fire, and addition of N + P led to a reduction of grass biomass and a large increase in biomass of a woody forb. Annual prescribed fire promoted N loss from the system by reducing standing dead and litter, but maintained desirable biomass of grasses.