Fire effects on community structure, composition, and diversity in a dry sandstone barrens

John B. Taft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fire effects on canopy, shrub/sapling, and ground-cover species composition, structure, and diversity patterns were examined following two burns in a dry sandstone barrens remnant in southern Illinois. Vegetation was monitored at a fire treatment site and a nearby fire-free control site for three years following the first fire and two years following the second fire. Fire effects were most pronounced in the ground-cover stratum and least in the tree stratum. At the fire treatment site, tree species richness was unchanged while tree density (stems ≥6 cm dbh) declined 10.6% from a baseline total of 945 stems/ha to 845 stems/ha. There was additional tree mortality the second growing season following each fire. Quercus stellata remained by far the most dominant species. Fire effects were limited to small-diameter trees (≤15 cm dbh) while total tree basal area increased at the treatment site from 17.8 m2/ha to 18.22 m2. Stem density in the shrub/sapling stratum significantly declined immediately following each fire while recovery to preburn levels was underway in four years just prior to the second burn. After two burns, stem density was about 45% the baseline amount. In the ground-cover stratum there were significant increases in diversity, species richness, species density, and percent cover at the fire treatment site while at the control site these variables remained unchanged or slightly declined. Noteworthy differences occurred among C3 and C4 graminoid species as many C3 species (e.g., Dichanthelium spp., Carex spp.) increased greatly in frequency and percent cover with fire while C4 species (e.g., Schizachyrium scoparium, Sorghastrum nutans) had parallel decline in the treatment and control sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-192
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Torrey Botanical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003


  • Barrens
  • C
  • Dichanthelium (Panicum) spp.
  • Fire effects
  • Profile analysis
  • Quercus stellata
  • Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Species diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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