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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: What were the dominant native grasses of the Carolinas?
Year: 2002
Author(s): Frost, C.
Source Title: Proceedings of the Third Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 22
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Before European settlement, the landscape of the Carolinas supported a rich diversity of grasslands and fire-maintained woodlands having flourishing grassy understories. With exception of fire-refugial communities such as mountain cover hardwood forests and steep north slope beech communities on the Piedmont, most uplands were visited by fire at one frequency or another. Today’s grass-forb remnants likely represent less than 2% of the original extent. With exception of coastal marshes and the drier longleaf pine/wiregrass habitats, we do not know the original dominant grasses, and original species composition can only be inferred from those species hanging on in the fire-supressed landscape. Most species diversity, including most rare species, is found in the herb layer. Exclusion of fire from natural communities has led to development of multistoried woody vegetation, excessive shade, litter buildup and consequent depauperization of the herb layer. Loss of the species-rich grass-forb layer throughout eastern North America is an ecological catastrophe still largely unrecognized. We have learned enough, however, about presettlement fire frequencies in recent to begin to reconstruct the original ground cover landscapes of the Carolinas.
Publisher: The North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, October 1-3, 2002. Omnipress, Madison, WI
Editor(s): J. Randall