Year of Publication

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Jerry M. Baskin

Second Advisor

Carol C. Baskin

Abstract

Xeric limestone prairies (XLPs) are open, nonforested communities dominatedby native, C4 perennial grasses. In eastern United States, they occur on shallow, rockycalcareous soils in various physiographic provinces from Missouri and Pennsylvaniasouth to Arkansas and Georgia. Floristic, vegetation, and physical environmental datawere collected from 18 XLPs in Kentucky and used in conjunction with data collected inother studies to provide a synthesis for XLP vegetation in eastern United States and acomparison of this vegetation type with limestone cedar glades and deep-soil barrens.XLPs occur on 33 soil series in five orders (Alfisols, Mollisols, Ultisols, Inceptisols, andVertisols) and on limestone, dolomite, and calcareous shale of Cambrian through Tertiarysystems. In Kentucky, XLPs are restricted to the Interior Low Plateaus, where they aremost frequent on the Upper Mississippian Salem Limestone in the KnobstoneEscarpment and Knobs. Three hundred and thirty-five taxa were recorded in the 18 sitessampled in Kentucky, of which 20 (6.0%) are nonnative and 24 (7.2%) state-listed asrare. The majority of the flora is intraneous C3 hemicryptophytes. Thirteen taxa areendemic to XLPs of eastern United States, but none to those in Kentucky. The native, C4perennial grass Schizachyrium scoparium was dominant in 10 of 12 community types inKentucky identified at a scale of 100-m2 and in 21 of 23 studies of XLPs in easternUnited States. The C4 annual grass Sporobolus vaginiflorus had high frequency values inthe majority of sites in Kentucky, where it often was dominant in the most shallow-soilzones. Variability among XLPs in Kentucky and among the floras of XLPs in differentregions is largely attributable to differences in forb species composition. Soil depth is theprimary abiotic source of variability in XLP community types in Kentucky and in manyother regions of eastern United States. Dendrochronological and aerial photographicstudies support the conclusion that the vast majority of XLPs are not primarycommunities. XLPs on the Cambrian Ketona Dolomite in the Ridge and Valley in BibbCounty, Alabama, are perhaps the only sites which represent an edaphic climax.

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