Oak woodland restoration in the Missouri Ozarks: two case studies examining responses of ground flora vegetation to prescribed fireThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Prescribed fire and thinning are two primary tools for restoring overgrown oak and oak-pine woodlands in Missouri. We wanted to examine woodland restoration efforts and determine if we were meeting our goals of promoting herbaceous ground flora cover and richness. We examined herbaceous responses to fire at two restoration sites in the Missouri Ozarks. At the first research site (Fourche Creek), we compared ground flora responses following fall and spring burning. At the second site (Rocky Creek), we examined ground flora responses following harvest treatments and three prescribed fires. At Fourche Creek, herbaceous richness and cover was not different for all treatments prior to burning. In 2011 after two prescribed burns, both fall and spring burn treatments had higher herbaceous richness and cover when compared to the unburned control. Both burn treatments also had lower sapling density in 2011 when compared to the control. Despite distinct structural differences in the overstory at Rocky Creek, there were no differences in cover and richness of herbaceous ground flora pre- and post-burning. High variability within and among treatments for the herbaceous community at Rocky Creek was likely due to environmental factors not accounted for within this study. Overall, these two case studies present evidence that fire is sufficient to increase cover and richness of native ground flora species, and that herbaceous communities can vary greatly across large restoration units with varied topography and soil conditions.