Maintaining a hill prairie ecosystem

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Stoughton-Jackson, Courtney
Mortensen, Charles O.
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Thesis (M.S.)
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management
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Fire has been an important influence on the structure and health of the North American grasslands for hundreds of years. In Jersey County Illinois, two natural loess hill prairies were studied to compare the effectiveness of varying management regimes. The purpose was to determine how a burn vs. a nonburn management regime enhances or hinders the establishment of the prairie grasses and forbs in a tallgrass hill prairie ecosystem. The variables studied included: the vegetational abundance, the frequency, and the biomass of the species that were present. In addition the soil's organic matter content and pH were measured. Overall, the Fire Road Prairie, or the unburned prairie, proved to be the community that was deteriorating and becoming unproductive. Whereas, the Osage Prairie contained a balance of grasses and forbs that were representative of a healthy and thriving community. The data supported the existing theory that a burn management plan does help the overall stability and productivity of a tallgrass ecosystem.