Fire effects on invasive species are an important land management issue in areas subjected to prescribed fires as well as wildfires. These effects on invasive species can be manifested across life stages. The liana Celastrus orbiculatus (oriental bittersweet) is a widespread invader of eastern US habitats including those where fire management is in practice. This study examined if prescribed fire makes these habitats more susceptible to invasion of C. orbiculatus by seed at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Four treatments (control, litter removed, high and low intensity fire) were applied in six habitat types (sand savanna/woodland, sand prairie, moraine prairie, sand oak forest, beech-maple forest, and oak-hickory forest) and germinating seedlings were tracked over two growing seasons. Treatment did not have a significant effect on the germination, survival, or biomass of C. orbiculatus. However, habitat type did influence these responses mostly in the first growing season. Moraine prairie, beech-maple forest, and oak-hickory forests had the greatest peak percentage of germinants. Moraine prairie had significantly greater survival than oak forest and savanna habitats. Control plots with intact litter, and the moraine prairie habitat had the tallest seedlings at germination, while tallest final heights and greatest aboveground biomass were highest in oak forest. Thus, fire and litter removal did not increase the susceptibility of these habitats to germination and survival of C. orbiculatus. These results indicate that most eastern US habitats are vulnerable to invasion by this species via seed regardless of the level or type of disturbance to the litter layer.
Additional publication details
Susceptibility of eastern U.S. habitats to invasion of Celastrus orbiculatus (oriental bittersweet) following fire