Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

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Lisa Garrigues
Lisa Garrigues

Evaluating the effectiveness of prescribed fire to restore longleaf pine ecosystems in the southeastern coastal lain

This study aims to explore the relationship between prescribed fire and the resulting understory composition on a local scale; specifically, Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) establishment and spread following a prescribed burn. Chinese tallow is known to aggressively invade favorable sites adjacent to bodies of water and roadways, as well as newly disturbed sites that are common after a prescribed burn. A better understanding of Chinese tallow invasion after a prescribed burn will help establish better ecological management strategies and prescribed burn plans for the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem.

The study area is located on the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. This area is located in the Southeastern coastal plain and is predominantly composed of pine savannas, swamps, and wetlands. The total area is approximately 20,000 acres; the majority of the area consists of pine flatwoods and pine savanna. Prescribed burn regimes are on a 2, 3-4, and =5 year rotation to mimic the historic 3-5 year interval and over 800 prescribed burns and 200 wildfires have since occurred on the refuge.

Study plots were randomly selected on the refuge according to varying fire intervals and number of years post-fire. On each study plot, importance value, basal area, diameter at breast height, and height of overstory species present were sampled using a tenth acre fixed radius plot. A survey of herbaceous cover and species type was also sampled. This data will be used to understand how rates of Chinese tallow invasion differs according to fire interval and will help determine ideal fire intervals to reduce invasion of Chinese tallow and increase native species establishment.


News / Recognition

Undergraduate Research Symposium

Katherine Abell, a wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture major, and Zachary Senneff, a forestry major, were among the winners of the 2014 MSU Undergraduate Research Symposium. Abell placed first in the community engagement and social sciences categories and Senneff placed second in the biological sciences and engineering category.

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