College of Arts and Sciences
Master of Science in Biology (MS)
NACO controlled Corporate Body
University of North Florida. Department of Biology
Dr. Anthony Rossi
Dr. Eric Johnson
Dr. Dale Casamatta
Dr. Daniel Moon
Dr. Barbara Hetrick
Terrestrial ecosystems in the southeastern United States have evolved with fire as a common disturbance and as a result many natural communities require the presence of fire to persist over time. Human development precludes natural fires from occurring within these communities; however, prescribed fire is considered to be a critical tool in the effort to restore fire-dependent ecosystems after decades of fire exclusion. Direct effects of fire on individual floral and faunal species as well as benefits to biodiversity at the landscape (gamma diversity) level have largely been supported in previous research. However, information on the effects of natural and prescribed fire on plant diversity at the local level (alpha diversity) is limited, particularly for southeastern forests. The applicability of the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis (IDH), which suggests that the highest levels of biodiversity are found at intermediate levels of disturbance, is also untested for North Florida upland plant communities. This study compared the effects of fire on local scale mean plant species diversity by examining burned and unburned portions of three fire-dependent communities to determine if there is an effect of prescribed fire on in alpha biodiversity. Alpha biodiversity was not significantly different (p=0.433) between burned and unburned fire-dependent plant communities in northern Florida, suggesting that prescribed fire does not affect plant species diversity in these communities and/or the IDH for plant communities is not supported at the time scale tested. However, the application of prescribed fire did result in changes in abundance of species, particularly with species such as Dicanthelium acuminatum, Quercus myrtifolia, and Vaccinium myrsinites, that respond positively to fire, which may have implications for associated faunal diversity.
Maholland, Peter D., "Effects of Prescribed Fire on Upland Plant Biodiversity and Abundance in Northeast Florida" (2015). UNF Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 562.