Ecological disturbances structure plant communities. In areas where reintroducing natural disturbances is unfeasible, land managers use artificial disturbances, such as fire and mowing, to simulate natural disturbances. However, prescribed fire and mowing can promote or inhibit seedling survival in plant populations. Lupinus perennis (the wild blue lupine) is a potentially threatened species commonly subjected to rotations of burning and mowing treatments to restore habitat for endangered butterflies (e.g., Karner blue, Lycaeides melissa sameulis). While L. perennis adults respond favorably to these management techniques, it is unknown how these variable management programs affect natural seedling recruitment and establishment. We quantified natural L. perennis seedling survival in seven managed remnant oak savannas in Northwest Ohio in 2007 and 2008. To evaluate the roles of management history and environmental factors on recruitment, we obtained burning and mowing management records for each savanna, measured environmental variables at each seedling, and assessed their relationships with seedling mortality. Seedling survival varied among the savannas and increased with greater fern and grass stems, moss cover, soil moisture, and initial size, but was reduced by increased oak saplings, light levels, and topographic wetness. Site elevation and initial seedling size affected the sizes of the juvenile plants. Management activities did not directly influence seedling survival or density, but the number of fires and total management activities at a site were positively correlated with oak saplings, suggesting current management practices may indirectly reduce lupine survival. Future management strategies may increase recruitment by focusing on the restoration of multiple species that are important components of the lupine regeneration niche.
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Vol. 35 • No. 2