A southern ridge sandhill site in central Florida, USA, was burned in 1989, 1991, and 1995 after 63 years of fire-suppression to simulate a pre-settlement fire regime. Fire changed species abundance and vegetation structure but caused only minimal changes in species turnover and diversity. There was a general trend for an increase in the cover of herbs following fire but this was a statistically significant effect for only one species, Liatris tenuifolia var. tenuifolia. Aristida beyrichiana increased, litter cover and litter depth were significantly reduced, and ground lichens were eliminated in response to burning. Scrub oaks and palmettos in the ground cover and small shrub layers (height ≤ 1 m) either increased or did not respond to burning, reflecting strong post-fire resprouting. Diversity in the ground cover and small shrub layers were not affected by fire. Scrub oaks and palmettos in the large shrub and overstorey layers (height > 1 m) were reduced in density, basal area, and longest canopy measurements in response to fire. Species diversity also decreased within these layers following fire. Some Pinus elliottii var. densa survived fire, but their density was reduced. All Pinus clausa were eliminated by fire. Periodic burning can suppress the dominance of shrubs (Quercus spp.) while increasing the cover of grasses and herbs in southern ridge sandhill vegetation.
Nomenclature: Wunderlin (1998) for most taxa.
Abbreviation: ABS = Archbold Biological Station.