Vegetation Recovery and Stand Structure Following a Prescribed Stand-Replacement Burn in Sand Pine Scrub
Vegetation and stand structure of sand pine scrub in central Florida, USA, were measured before a prescribed stand-replacement burn and for > 8 y afterward. Herbaceous species richness peaked within 16 months postburn, then gradually declined, although significant differences were detected only between 16 months and > 8 y postburn. Twenty-two plant species were detected after the burn that were not recorded prior to the burn. Woody plant species richness recovered to preburn levels within 5 months. Myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia Willd.), the dominant species, regained its preburn cover within 16 months and preburn height within 40 months. Scrub palmetto (Sabal etonia Swingle ex Nash) regained its preburn cover and height within 5 months. After > 8 y sand pine (Pinus clausa clausa [Chapm. Ex Engelm.] Vasey ex Sarg.) had regained 29% cover and 2.3 m height. Litter layer thickness was reduced by the fire but was subsequently stable. Bare ground increased postburn but was similar to preburn levels within 64 months. Light at breast height peaked at 28-64 months postburn, and light at ground level increased postburn and remained high. Coarse woody debris cover and diameter increased beginning 28 months postburn as snags fell. Under the right conditions, prescribed stand-replacement fire can be used in sand pine scrub to enhance species richness, temporarily increase cover and reproduction by some endemic plant species, and temporarily eliminate the sand pine canopy to restore a historically common stand structure.