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Abstract Detail

Ecological Section

HUEBNER, CYNTHIA [1], Karriker, Kent [2].

Response of Smooth Rock Skullcap (Scutellaria saxatilis), a Globally Rare Plant, to Fire.

Scutellaria saxatilis Riddell (smooth rock skullcap or rock skullcap), a herbaceous perennial in the mint family, is a globally rare (G3) plant.  In West Virginia, rock skullcap is categorized as a S2 species (rare or imperiled, with 6-20 documented occurrences or few remaining individuals within the state).  The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of fire on rock skullcap in West Virginia.  Two forested sites (70+ years of age) within the Monongahela National Forest with no evident disturbance and with populations of rock skullcap of at least 1000 individuals were selected, one in a burn area and the other in a non-burn area.  Sites were sampled in early September 2008 and 2009 (pre-burn) and in 2010 and 2011 (post-burn).  The prescribed burn occurred in May of 2010. A generalized linear mixed model with repeated measures was used to determine the effects of the burn on rock skullcap cover and associated variables including vegetation cover, species richness, bare ground, and litter cover.  Control and pre-burn sites did not differ significantly in terms of rock skullcap cover or other variables, including bare ground cover, litter cover, vegetation cover, and species richness over the four year period.  The cover of rock skullcap increased significantly in 2010 (first year post-burn) compared to both pre-burn years and the control sites, but decreased to pre-burn levels by 2011.  Total cover of other understory vegetation increased significantly in 2010 and continued at 2010 levels in 2011.  Bare ground cover increased and litter cover decreased in 2010 in response to the fire, but bare ground decreased to below pre-burn levels in 2011.  Thus, rock skullcap has a temporary positive response to prescribed fire, but an increase in other ground vegetation may prevent further increases in rock skullcap.  The increase in cover of other vegetation is likely a response to a more open canopy due to some canopy tree mortality after the fire.  Tree seedling species richness decreased in 2010 and remained near 2010 levels in 2011.  Herb, shrub, and vine species richness increased in 2010 and remained at 2010 levels in 2011.  These data show that rock skullcap is relatively resilient to infrequent low-intensity fires, but frequent fire or more severe fires with greater canopy opening and increases in understory vegetation cover could be detrimental to this species.

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1 - Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 180 Canfield St., Morgantown, WV, 26505, USA
2 - USDA Forest Service, Monongahela National Forest, 200 Sycamore St., Elkins, WV, 26241, USA

Scutellaria saxatilis
rock skullcap
threatened species.

Presentation Type: Poster:Posters for Sections
Session: P
Location: Eyrie/Boise Centre
Date: Monday, July 28th, 2014
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: PEC010
Abstract ID:366
Candidate for Awards:None

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