Seed Phenology and Burning Regimes

Period: January 3, 2003 -December 31, 2004
Contact: John Faaborg
Organization: the University of Missouri and Missouri Department of Conservation
Funding Source: Prairie Fork Trust

Objectives: This project is directly related to long-term goals of education and habitat restoration noted in the PFCA Area Plan. Restoration of prairie natural communities listed under Natural History Goals and habitat restoration of prairie/savanna/Ozark border on 70% of PFCA under Wildlife Goals will require the development of local seed sources. Tucker Prairie is the only prairie proximate to PFCA were the quality and quantity of seed needed could realistically be made available. Tucker Prairie has also been designated by the Missouri Prairie Foundation as the source of seed for restoration of the most recent acquisition to Prairie Fork CA.

Restoration ecology research and monitoring with an emphasis on prairie ecosystems is an emphasis area for 2003. Further knowledge of seed production from native grasslands is required to collect the seed mix needed for a highly diverse prairie reconstruction. To date, we have adjusted burn schedules to stimulate both early summer and late summer plants. By studying characteristics of seed production on the prairie with regard to different burning histories, we will better understand the effects of fire on seed production, how to gather seeds from rare species, better timing for mechanical and hand harvest and other details necessary to transfer as many of Tucker Prairie’s 250+ species of plants to PFCA.

Permanent transects will be established in each of the five burn units to monitor seed set and production of the more common species. A search for less common species will be necessary with plots established once they are located. Weekly visits to sample areas will be conducted during the growing season to note first seed set of a species after which sampling will continue weekly until seed is no longer available for harvest. Nested plots will be established within each of the five burn units to collect the initial year of plant diversity data. Two undergraduate researchers will be needed to conduct the vegetative sampling. Both will work full time through the summer and part time once the fall semester begins. Dr. Faaborg has two students who are interested; both have strong plant identification skills and have worked with Dr. Robin Kennedy in the MU Herbarium. One is very interested in prairie restoration. Exact sampling methods will be developed after discussions with plant ecologists at both MU and MDC.