Resilience of foothills rough fescue, Festuca campestris, rangeland to wildfire

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  • A three year monitoring program evaluated the effects of a December 1997 wildfire in southwest Alberta, on Foothills Rough Fescue grassland species composition, ground cover, herbage production, and forage quality. Changes in species abundance included a reduction in grass cover (p<0.10) after burning. Rough Fescue also increased seedhead production during the second year after fire (p = 0.08). Relative to the unburned area, grarninoid production declined (p < 0.05) by approximately 40% with burning, while forb production was unaffected. By the second growing season, live plant cover and herbage production had recovered on the burned area. The forage quality of individual Foothills Rough Fescue plants was greater on the burned area, with the greatest increase in crude protein in 1998 (p < 0.10), and energy and total digestibility in 1999 (p < 0.05). Increased quality may be linked to the level of forage production, as well as a fire-induced delay in plant phenology. Although soil erosion appeared to be minimal, there was an increase in exposed soil and a corresponding decline in litter and mulch cover (p < 0.05). Greater nitrogen levels (p = 0.05 1) were found in creeks downstream of the burn area during 1998, indicating some nutrient losses may be attributed to the fire. Although the grasslands examined displayed considerable resilience to this severe wildfire, favourable recovery was probably linked to the high precipitation during 1998, when summer rainfall was 48% above average.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareALike 4.0 International
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    • Bork, E. W., Adams, B. W., & Willms, W. D. (2002). Resilience of foothills rough fescue, Festuca campestris, rangeland to wildfire. Canadian Field Naturalist, 116(1), 51-59. Retrieved from:
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