Ecological and cultural significance of burning beargrass habitat on the olympic peninsula, washington

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To conserve or restore culturally significant plants, one must consider the important role that indigenous land management techniques have played in maintaining habitats of those species. Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is a basketry plant used by Native Americans and is reportedly declining in traditional gathering sites. Many low-elevation beargrass sites on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington were maintained as savannas and wetland prairies through anthropogenic burning prior to European settlement. This study measures short-term (1 and 2 y) effects of reintroducing prescribed burning (both low and high severity) and manual clearing on beargrass growth and reproductive success-flowering, vegetative reproduction, and seedling establishment. High-severity fire led to a significant increase in beargrass seedling establishment and vegetative reproduction over two years but a decline in beargrass cover. Low-severity fire also decreased beargrass cover, but did not significantly affect shoot production or seedling establishment. In areas where vegetation and coarse woody debris were manually cleared, beargrass cover decreased, while shoot production and flowering increased. Neither low-severity fires nor clearing plots affected beargrass seedling establishment. Results indicate that fire is a useful tool for enhancing low-elevation beargrass populations in this region. © 2009 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.

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Ecological Restoration

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