Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
W.M. Keck Science Department
© 2013 Dana Marie Von Schaumburg
Coastal sage scrub (CSS), a lowland plant community native to California, is home to many rare, threatened, or endangered plants and animals. Fire, a natural feature of CSS, is essential for maintaining species diversity. However, the invasion of non-native grasses has altered the fire regime in CSS, increasing fire frequency and fire season length and decreasing fire intensity. Changes in the historical fire regime may in turn cause feedbacks that favor non-native species, resulting in the loss of biodiversity in invaded CSS sites. Numerous studies have examined patterns of post-fire succession in CSS; however, the role that the pre-fire seed bank and the relative abundance of natives to non-natives play in vegetation regrowth and community recovery is unclear. A lack of adequate pre-fire data on community composition makes testing hypotheses about the role of seed banks in post-fire recovery challenging. I propose to study recovery of the plant community in two differentially invaded CSS sites (East and West field) following a fire at the Bernard Field Station in September 2013. Data collected at the two sites from 2009-2013 reveal that non-native grass cover was significantly higher than native cover at both sites, though the West field had slightly higher native forb cover. Furthermore, the invasive grass Bromus diandrus almost entirely dominated the East field. Vegetation cover in the West field was more diverse with the abundance of other non-natives (Bromus hordeaceus, Bromus madritensis, Vulpia myuros) and natives (Amsinckia menziesii, Lupinus spp.) significantly higher than in the East field. To determine the effects of these pre-fire differences on recovery processes, I will carry out a randomized block experiment with four treatments (control, native seed addition, non-native grass removal, and both native seed addition and removal of non-native grasses). Twelve blocks will be evenly divided between the East and West fields. I propose to measure relative seedling abundance for both native and non-native species after each significant rainstorm over a three-year study period. I hypothesize that the composition of seed banks pre-fire will predict vegetation regrowth post-fire. Specifically, I predict that, under control conditions, B. diandrus will dominate the East field post-fire given its high abundance pre-fire. Further, I predict that regrowth in controls plots in the West field will be more variable given its more diverse seed bank pre-fire. Lastly, I predict that native forbs will exhibit the greatest degree of recovery in plots where active restoration methods (seeding and non-native grass removal) are employed; the effects of these restoration methods should be strongest in the East field because the pre-fire vegetation community was more heavily weighed towards non-native species. This study will add crucial knowledge to our understanding of how the pre-fire seed bank in CSS affects its recovery post-fire, which may inform future conservation efforts to ensure the continued health and protection of CSS sites around California.
Von Schaumburg, Dana Marie, "A Study of Post-Fire Recovery in Invaded Coastal Sage Scrub at the Bernard Field Station" (2014). Scripps Senior Theses. 338.
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