Much of western North America is dominated by dense, monotypic, late seral stands of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.). These stands often have depauperate understories with limited species richness, diversity, and herbaceous cover. The National Park Service at Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, is using both strategic and natural prescribed fire in Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis Beetle and Young) communities to foster intra-community (α-scale) and landscape diversity. This study analyzed an accumulated foliar cover data set between paired burn and control areas on 6 different sites during the last 20 years. Across the monitoring period, mean total vegetation cover of all combined sites was 44% control and 42% burn. Total vegetation cover in burn areas was higher than or equal to paired control areas within 2–3 years post-burn. Shrubs were essentially eliminated in burn areas, but perennial grass cover was 10–35% higher. Mean number of species on all sites and years combined was 17 control and 18 burn. Species richness was different on only 1 site-year, Dry Woman 1995 (P = 0.001, 15 control, 9 burn). Species similarity by site and between treatments ranged from 44% to 75%. Differences in Shannon–Weiner diversity index values between paired sites occurred in 6 of 20 years (P < 0.05). Index value differences on these 6 sites were due to a large annual grass component in burn areas. Prescribed burning successfully shifted late successional sagebrushdominated communities to earlier herbaceous-dominated successional stages without lowering total vegetation cover, while maintaining -scale diversity and species richness.
Perryman, Barry L.; Olson, Richard A.; Petersburg, Stephen; and Naumann, Tamara
"Vegetation response to prescribed fire in Dinosaur National Monument,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 62
, Article 3.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol62/iss4/3