Ecological survey and interpretation of the Willamette Floodplain Research Natural Area, W.L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cf95jf370

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  • The purpose of this study was to: (1) evaluate land use and vegetation history of the Willamette Floodplain Research Natural Area; (2) characterize present day vegetation; (3) evaluate the relation of vegetation to environment, and (4) establish a baseline dataset for future trend analysis in order that response of different plant species to fire frequencies may be assessed. I used historical records, aerial photographs, interviews, and literature to ascertain land use and vegetation history. I assumed that the RNA had been maintained as prairie by periodic aboriginal burning. Fire ignited by settlers continued as a management tool into the late 19th century. Grazing was a major disturbance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and plowing or some other soil disturbance on the raised elongated mounds may have occurred. With removal of livestock grazing in the early 1960s and only a sporadic burning program, shrub cover increased markedly over the past several decades. I surveyed vegetation in the summer of 1991 in 36 random permanent plots. 1 classified species cover with two-way indicator species analysis, identifying two major communities. One is dominated by tall dense Rosa eg'lanteria, Hypericum perforatum, and many alien weedy species located on slightly elevated mounds, and the other is dominated by shorter but also dense Rosa eglanteria, Deschampsia cespitosa, and many species with wetland affinity on intermounds. Monotypic patches of Spiraea douglasii also occur on intermounds. Species composition strongly correlates with raicrotopography related to an indirect soil moisture index based on wetland status of individual species. Composition correlates less strongly with year since last burn. I confirmed vegetation-environment relations by null hypothesis analysis, tested by multi-response permutation procedure. Vegetation significantly differs on mounds vs. intermounds and vegetation significantly reflects burning history. I ordinated floristic data by non-metric scaling. I also tallied nested frequency data as a baseline for future trend analysis in order to assess change in vegetation in response to fire frequency. Frequency change of Rosa eglanteria will best be detected by change in a 0.01 m2 plot size, Holcus lanatus by a 0.10 m2 plot, and remaining species by a 1.00 m2 plot.
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