Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

Gordon A. Fox, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Earl D. McCoy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Frederick B. Essig, Ph.D.


Autocorrelation, Burn regime, Heterogeneity, Rank occurence, Species area curve


Pine sandhill are integral pyrogenic communities in the southeastern United States. Though once widespread, habitat destruction, fire suppression and fragmentation have reduced the population to nearly 3%. It is important to learn as much as possible about these unique areas in order to implement best management practices to conserve and restore the existing populations of these communities.

Fire is central to the maintenance of pine sandhill communities and two conceptual hypothesis regarding burn frequency have come to light in maintaining the unique species composition and richness of these areas. The first is the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis which suggests that intermediate fire regime maintains species diversity. The second is the Most Frequent Fire Hypothesis suggests that these areas should be burned as frequently as fuels allow.

We used species area curves and species area relationships to answer the following questions about a pine sandhill community in the burn plot area of the University of South Florida Ecological Research Area (ERA). What are the patterns of species richness and how do they change with spatial scale? What are the factors contributing to the heterogeneity of this area and how much are they contributing? Do similarly burned areas have similar species composition? Do our results shed some light on the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis or Most Frequent Fire Hypothesis?

We found that physical distance contributed more to species compositional and spatial patterns than burn regime or elevation, whose effects were small. On this particular scale, the results did not support either the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis or Most Frequent Fire Hypothesis, as acquisition rates of species in all burn regimes were quite similar. There was no obvious pattern of increased species richness with frequent or intermediate burning.

Our results suggest a need for a dynamic plan for the conservation, preservation and management of pine sandhill communities. One must consider as many factors as possible when managing these lands, as every sandhill is unique. More research should be conducted on these ecologically sensitive and diminished areas in order to formulate best management practices to conserve, protect and restore pine sandhill in the southeastern United States.