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2021 Update: Community flowering phenology in remnants

In 2021, Lea Richardson conceived and initiated a 2-year study designed to test how fire affects community flowering phenology in remnant prairies in MN. We randomly sampled points in burned and unburned remnants for a total of 294 points. In a 1m radius around each random point, the number of flowering stems were counted for every plant species present in the circle twice a week from July 1-August 31. For some species, the radius extended past 1m. Random points used in this study were the same points used in the stipa project as well as other projects associated with Jared Beck’s postdoc studying fire in remnants. Lea also obtained estimates of total number of flowering plants of certain species for the whole site if the species in question was not in any of the random circles placed on the site (these additional observations should allow for more accurate flowering abundance curves to be obtained). Sites were divided into two driving routes with roughly half of the points visited on Monday and Thursday, and the other half visited Tuesday and Friday. This sampling protocol for the same sites will be repeated in 2022 to be able to compare points with and without fire across two years and among sites. Over 100 flowering species were identified within the circles. Data analysis will proceed on this first year of data in Spring 2022 and will be included as Chapter 4 of Lea’s dissertation.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: Remnants including: eri.n, rrx.w, lc.w, lc.e, yoh.e, yoh.w, aa.s, aa.n, sgc, eelr, kj, nnwlf, lf.w, lf.e, sap.w, sap.e, dog, on27, spp.w, spp.e
  • Overlaps with: Hesperostipa fire and flowering, prescribed fire in remnants, random points in remnants
  • Data collected: community phenology data, using visor form ptPhen (all data in aiiSummer2021 repo in ptPhen folder)
  • Samples or specimens collected: none
  • Products: [eventually] chapter 4 of Lea Richardson’s dissertation and hopefully a manuscript after 2022 data collection

You can read more about the community flowering phenology in remnants experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

wrap up internship with LFC students

Alondra, Connor, Maeve, and Marina finished their mini-internships with us. It was a great experience for them and us. We appreciate their contributions to science and conservation and they gained valuable experience. As part of their plant biology class, Alondra, Connor, Maeve, and Marina, who are juniors and seniors at Lake Forest College, worked on two projects to assess effects of prescribed fires on reproduction in Echinacea. In the lab, they gained hands-on experience in seed biology over three Wednesday afternoons, including cleaning, scanning, counting, developing hypotheses, and data management. To test their hypotheses, they developed a dataset and summarized their results. In class they presented posters and they are attached here. It was a wonderful mini-internship–thanks to Alondra, Connor, Maeve, and Marina, as well as Prof. Westley!

2021 Update: Andropogon fire and flowering in exPt08

In summer 2020, Team Echinacea established two plots south of experimental plot 8 for a pilot experiment examining fire effects on Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) reproduction. Neither plot was burned during 2020. During spring 2021, we randomly selected the western plot to be burned.

Within each rectangular plot, we selected 30 random points. We then counted the number of flowering Andropogon culms within circular 1m2 subplot centered on each random point (within 56.4 cm). After excluding random points that overlapped with the plot boundary or other random points, we were left with 24 usable random points in the eastern plot and 23 usable random points in the western plot.

  • Start year: 2020
  • Location: South of exPt08
  • Overlaps with: Andropogon fire and flowering in remnants
  • Data collected:
    • Stakefile for random plot locations: ~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/stakeFiles2021/stakeAndroPilot2021.csv
    • Scanned data sheets: ~Dropbox/burnRems/pilotAndro/androPilot2021
  • Samples or specimens collected: Seed heads collected from 2020 and 2021 are currently stored in Jared’s office. These have been dried and will be cleaned / x-rayed to quantify seed set.
  • Products: Stay tuned!

You can read more about the Andropogon fire and flowering in exPt08 experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2021 Update: Seed addition transects in remnants

In 2021, Team Echinacea established 76 transects (each 4 m long) across 32 patches of remnant prairie in the study area. Transect locations were determined by generating an ordered list of random points (random integers corresponding with MN state plane coordinate system) within each remnant and selecting the first 2-4 random points that were located within ~5m of an adult Echinacea but avoided dense patches of flowering plants where we may have difficulty distinguishing experimental seedlings from natural recruits. Each transect originating at a random point is 4-m long and contains four 1-m segments. Most transects extend North from the random point but some extend East (in sites where North-South transects may span an entire ditch). One segment per transect was chosen at random to be planted in fall 2021 and one transect chosen at random to be planted during fall 2022.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: 32 patches of remnant prairie in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: Fire and seedling fitness in remnants
  • Data collected: locations for seed addition transects: ~echinaceagis/remSeedAdditionExpt/remSeedExptTransectLocations.csv
  • Samples or specimens collected: NA
  • Products: Stay tuned!

You can read more about the seed addition transects in remnants, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2021 Update: Fire and seedling fitness in remnants

As part of the 2020 NSF grant to study fire effects on plant reproduction and population dynamics, we are implementing a seed addition experiment in numerous remnants. From previous studies, we know that fire can improve recruitment, which is important for population growth. However, our previous observations of recruitment in remnants conflate the amount of seed entering the seed bank and the seedlings emerging from the seed bank. The goal of this seed addition experiment is to help us directly quantify the effects of fire on seedling emergence and early seedling fitness. We will use these data to parameterize demographic models for Echinacea.

For the seed addition experiment, we established 76 transects distributed across 32 prairie remnants with Echinacea. One segment per transect was chosen at random to be planted in fall 2021 and one transect chosen at random to be planted during fall 2022. The study includes 9 sites burned during spring 2021 as well as 7 sites slated to burn during spring 2022. Seeds were sowed in groups of 50 (either one or two packets of 50 per segment planted). All seeds were derived from the 2016 heads harvested in p2.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: 32 patches of remnant prairie in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: Seed addition transects in remnants
  • Data collected: All data related to planting can be found here: ~Dropbox/burnRems/seedExp
  • Samples or specimens collected: Seed packets to be planted in fall 2022 are stored in see-through glass cabinets in the population biology lab at CBG.
  • Products: Stay tuned!

You can read more about the fire and seedling fitness in remnants experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2021 Update: Reproductive fitness in remnants

As part of the Echinacea Project’s long-term efforts to monitor reproductive fitness in the remnant populations, Team Echinacea harvested 383 seeds heads from 29 remnants during summer 2021. We randomly selected 15 heads from each population to harvest. If a population had less than 15 flowering plants, we harvested a randomly selected head from all flowering plants. In the fragmented populations we study, flowering plants often fail to produce viable seed due to limited mating opportunities. By harvesting seed heads and quantifying seed set, we can better understand how the spatial location and flowering phenology of Echinacea contribute to reproductive fitness. We are keenly interested in understanding how fire influences reproductive outcomes in fragmented prairies. To this end, we harvested seed heads from 8 populations experimentally burned during spring 2021. We will examine how fire influences mating opportunities and seed set across different populations ranging in size.

These heads we harvested are currently in the CBG lab being cleaned by volunteers and interns. We have even started scanning and counting achenes! Soon the new x-ray will be up and running, and we will begin to answer the burning questions we have about Echinacea reproduction in fragmented prairie remnants.

Start year: 1996

Location: Roadsides, railroad rights of way, and nature preserves in and around Solem Township, MN

Overlaps with: Phenology in the Remnants

Data/Materials collected:  383 seed heads were collected; these are currently at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Data sheets and other materials can be found here: ~Dropbox/remData

Products: We will compile seed set data from 2021 into a dataset with seed set data from previous years.

You can read more about reproductive fitness in remnants, as well as links to previous flog entries mentioning the experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2021 Update: Random points in remnants

In 2021, Team Echinacea established 378 random points across 27 prairie remnants in western Minnesota. After delineating the boundaries of remnant prairie patches of interest, we established between 6 and 24 random points within each patch (number of points roughly proportional to patch area). These points serve as sampling locations to help Team Echinacea characterize fire effects on the reproduction of plant species like Hesperostipa spartea and Andropogon gerardii. These points may also serve as infrastructure for future research projects.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: Roadsides, railroad rights of way, and nature preserves in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: Hesperostipa fire and flowering in remnants, Andropogon fire and flowering in remnants
  • Data collected: stakefile with 378 random point locations can be found: ~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/stakeFiles2021/randomPointsInRems/stakeRandomPointsInRems2021.csv
  • Samples or specimens collected: NA
  • Products: NA

You can read more about Random points in remnants, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2021 Update: Asclepias viridiflora demography

In summer 2021, Team Echinacea searched for and mapped 71 Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) plants across 8 patches of remnant prairie in our study area in western MN. This denizen of dry prairies is tough to spot and appears to be declining across its range. Our goal is to monitor Green Milkweed individuals in the study area to better understand their demography, responses to prescribed fire, and reproduction. We located and mapped 70 Green Milkweed plants, 59 of which flowered. Of the plants that flowered, 31 produced pods. We harvested pods from 22 plants for further study in the lab and (hopefully) growing some plants from seed.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: Remnant patches of prairie in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: NA
  • Data collected: demographic data: ~Dropbox/burnRems/remAv/data2021/ascvir2021.csv
  • Samples or specimens collected: Pods/seed collected during summer 2021 currently reside in Jared’s office. These seeds need to be inventoried, cleaned, counted, and x-rayed.
  • Products: Stay tuned!

You can read more about the Asclepias viridiflora demography project, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2021 Update: Hesperostipa fire and flowering in remnants

During late summer 2021, we began collecting data in remnant patches of prairie to quantify fire effects on the reproduction of Porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea). We visited 209 random points established during the summer across 17 remnant patches and counted the number of flowering Hesperostipa culms rooted within 1 m of the random point. Across the 209 plots, we counted 1159 culms. The highest density we observed was 101 culms in one plot at Landfill East. In addition to counting culms, we also counted the number of fruits produced by culms in each plot. The plot with 101 culms at Landfill East also held the record for fruit count at 523!

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: Remnant patches of prairie in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: Random points in remnants
  • Data collected: ~Dropbox/burnRems/remStipa/data2021/remStipa2021Data.csv
  • Samples or specimens collected: Seeds collected and counted during June 2021 were broadcast in exPt08
  • Products: Stay tuned!

You can read more about the Hesperostipa fire and flowering in remnants experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2021 Update: Andropogon fire and flowering in remnants

During late summer 2021, we began collecting data in remnant patches of prairie to quantify fire effects on the reproduction of Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). We visited 276 random points established during the summer across 27 remnant patches and counted the number of flowering Andropogon culms rooted within 1 m of the random point. Across the 376 plots, we counted 1450 culms. The highest density we observed was 163 culms in one plot at KJs. We also collected seed heads from all culms within 1 m of the random points to x-ray and quantify seed set.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: Patches of remnant prairie in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: Random points in remnants
  • Data collected: ~Dropbox/burnRems/remAndro/fieldData2021/remAndro2021DataVerified.csv
  • Samples or specimens collected: Seed heads collected during summer 2021 have been dried and currently reside in Jared’s office. These samples will be cleaned, processes, and x-rayed to quantify seed set.
  • Products: Stay tuned!

You can read more about the Andropogon fire and flowering in remnants experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.