Maryland shale barren (savanna) communities support rare, threatened, and endangered species, but biodiversity conservation sites are transitioning to pignut hickory woodland and forest as a result of fire exclusion. In Green Ridge State Forest, an exemplary community was studied for vegetation change after pignut hickory management and a prescribed burn. Portions of contiguous chestnut oak (Quercus montana) and streamside hardwood communities were also included. Prerestoration herbaceous layer characteristics were quantified in 2010 using transect plots before hickories were killed by herbicide. A prescribed burn was conducted in November 2011 followed by resampling in 2013. In the barren community, Carex pensylvanica remained the dominant herbaceous layer species, but codominant species changed. Ground cover increased from 63% to 76%, species richness from 48 to 52, and the Shannon-Wiener diversity index (H′) from 3.138 to 3.373. In the chestnut oak forest, the dominant herbaceous layer species changed, ground cover increased from 15% to 65%, species richness from 22 to 29, and H′ from 2.578 to 2.686. In the streamside community, ground cover increased from 50% to 83%, species richness from 38 to 50, and H′ from 3.114 to 3.319. Results emphasize the biodiversity importance of woody plant management and periodic ground fires to shale barren restoration.
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