Gentiana autumnalis (pine barren gentian) is a rare, fall-flowering perennial that is endemic to pine barren habitat from New Jersey to South Carolina. This disturbance-adapted, early successional species is at risk in New Jersey as a result of human interactions, namely growing season mowing and fire suppression. We used a repeated measures design to compare the differences between managed (mowing and prescribed fire) and unmanaged G. autumnalis populations for density, life stage, mortality, and fecundity. Managed populations had a greater gentian density, proportion of reproductive individuals, and seedlings compared to unmanaged populations. Implementing prescribed burns and mowing at previously unmanaged sites prior to spring growth increased gentian density, flowering, and seed set the same year. Our data support that prescribed burning and mowing can be beneficial management tools for the conservation of G. autumnalis and other disturbance-adapted species that require open early-successional habitat. However, their implementation can have negative consequences if conducted during the growing season, especially for roadside populations that are periodically mowed. Declining rare plant populations have the potential to benefit from management practices that facilitate ideal growing conditions and influence life stage transitions that will best improve population growth rate over time.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science
- Pine Barrens
- fire management
- population ecology