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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Responses of plant and bird communities to prescribed burning in tallgrass prairies
Year: 2007
Author(s): Van Dyke, F., Schmeling, J. D., Starkenburg, S., Yoo, S. H., Stewart, P. W.
Source Title: Biodiversity and Conservation
Source Type: Journal
pages: 827-839
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Historic losses and fragmentation of tallgrass prairie habitat to agriculture and urban development have led to declines in diversity and abundance of plants and birds associated with such habitat. Prescribed burning is a management strategy that has potential for restoring and rejuvenating prairies in fragmented landscapes, and through such restoration, might create habitat for birds dependent upon prairies. To provide improved data for management decision-making regarding the use of prescribed fire in tallgrass prairies, we compared responses of plant and bird communities on five burned and five unburned tallgrass prairie fragments at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa, USA, from 1995 to 1997. Overall species richness and diversity were unaffected by burning, but individual species of plants and birds were affected by year-treatment interactions, including northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), which showed time-delayed increases in density on burned sites. Analyses of species/area relationships indicated that, collectively, many small sites did make significant contributions to plant biodiversity at landscape levels, supporting the overall conservation value of prairie fragments. In contrast, most birds species were present on larger sites. Thus, higher biodiversity in bird communities which contain area-sensitive species might require larger sites able to support larger, more stable populations, greater habitat heterogeneity, and greater opportunity for niche separation.