Click HERE to gain access to a pre-publication version of Effects of fire seasonality and intensity on resprouting woody plants in prairie-forest communities by Jed Meunier, Nathan Holoubek, Yari Johnson, Tim Kuhman, and Brad Strobel! This recent research conducted in part at the UW-Arboretum suggests that late summer burns may be more effective at controlling some shrub species, along side additional management practices. We are happy to see current and past WPFC Board Members contributing valuable research to the science of prescribed fire! Congratulations!
Abstract: Woody plant expansion is one of the greatest contemporary threats to fire-dependent ecosystems. Reducing woody plant prevalence is often a primary objective of prescribed burns, yet little attention has been given to understanding the efficacy of burning to reduce their abundance. Fire intensity characteristics and plant phenology/physiology, which are sometimes presented as competing hypotheses, influence how woody plants respond to a fire event. Little work has been done in the prairie-forest region of the upper Midwest to understand how fire characteristics interact with woody species phenology and/or physiology. Using a controlled field experiment, we examined effects of timing (seasonality) and intensity (temperature and duration) of fires on top-kill and resprouting of three invasive woody plants in this region (common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica; bush honeysuckles, Lonicera spp.; and a native species, northern pin oak Quercus ellipsoidalis). Honeysuckles and pin oak burned in the spring dormant period, a common practice in the region, resulted in low levels of top-kill and high levels of resprouting. Burning during the late growing season yielded highest levels of top-kill and lowest levels of resprouting for honeysuckles and pin oaks. However, there was no apparent effect of season or fire intensity treatment for buckthorn stems. Under all treatment combinations, buckthorn was easily top-killed but resprouted prolifically. Collectively, most prescribed burning in the Midwest appears to be conducted during the least effective season (early growing season), when top-kill is reduced and/or resprouting most pronounced. Our results indicate that fire use could be better prescribed in this region for controlling woody plants.