Two closed-canopy barren plant communities in east-central Illinois


Pre-settlement barrens of Illinois were fire-maintained communities with an open tree canopy and a grass-dominated ground layer. Found on rolling topography, they were commonly underlain by well-drained, nutrient poor, clayey soils. Fire suppression following the arrival of the European settlers resulted in canopy closure and the loss of many prairie species that once dominated the ground layer. Both barrens studied had closed canopies due to decreased fire frequency, though both are currently being managed by fire. Quercus alba (white oak) and Q. stellata (post oak) dominated the overstory and accounted for more than 50% of the importance value. Very few shrubs, woody seedlings, and saplings were present, probably due to recent fires. Stephen A. Forbes State Park Barren in Marion County had been subjected to one burn before the study, and few prairie species were present there. The Buhnerkempe Barren in Clay County was subjected to occasional burns prior to our study and had higher prairie species diversity.

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Northeastern Naturalist