Effects of burning and thinning on species composition and forage production in British Columbia grasslands
Ducherer, Kim Lannette
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The structural integrity of fire-dependent ecosystems, such as ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl.) and Interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) biogeoclimatic zones in Interior British Columbia (BC) is changing. The problems within these ecosystems include decreased rangeland area, reduced carrying capacity and loss of biodiversity due to tree encroachment and forest ingrowth caused mainly by fire suppression. The goal of this study was to determine the effect of burning and thinning on understory vegetation of grassland and forested sites. The burning experiment took place at Dew Drop (Tranquille Ecological Reserve) located 20 km northwest of Kamloops, BC. Thinning was done at two upper grassland sites near Cache Creek, BC; Coal Mine Pasture and Gladys Lake Pasture. Species evenness and values of the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index (H’) were reduced (13 and 27%, respectively) within three years following burning (P = 0.014 and P = 0.038, respectively). Burning reduced canopy cover of shrubs on grassland sites (P = 0.005) and it reduced graminoid cover on forest sites (P = 0.014) immediately after the treatment (1999) but both functional groups had recovered by 2002. Litter depth and total canopy cover of plants were reduced in grasslands and forests immediately following burning (1999) but litter depth and canopy cover had recovered by 2002. Litter cover and litter depth beneath the tree canopy were reduced by burning (P = 0.037 and P = 0.009, respectively). Trends in the data indicate forb standing crop increased and total understory standing crop increased following burning in the grassland compared to the control. Graminoid standing crop was reduced 47% by burning in the forests (P = 0.049). Thinning reduced species richness in the first (P = 0.033) and fourth (P = 0.030) years, and H’ in the first year (P = 0.037) following the thinning at Coal Mine Pasture. Trends in the data suggest understory standing crop increased at Coal Mine and Gladys Lake Pastures following thinning. At both locations, thinning reduced litter depth. Therefore, burning and thinning kills trees, reduces fuel loads, and increases standing crop of the understory.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeRomo, James T.; Johnston, Mark; Hughes, Geoffrey R.; Coulman, Bruce E.; Cohen, Roger D. H.; Thompson, Don
Copyright DateDecember 2005