, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 179-189

Measures of resilience: the response of coastal sage scrub to fire

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Measures of four components of resilience are developed and used to quantify the response of coastal sage scrub to fire in southern California: (1) elasticity (rate of recovery following disturbance), (2) amplitude (threshold of disturbance beyond which recovery to the original state no longer occurs), (3) malleability (extent of alteration of the new stable-state from the original) and (4) damping (extent and duration of oscillation in an ecosystem parameter following disturbance). Vegetation and soil properties measured before fire, and for the first 5–6 yr after fire on four coastal (Venturan association) and four inland (Riversidian association) sites of coastal sage were used to follow changes. In addition, results from a simulation model of post-fire succession in Venturan coastal sage scrub (the FINICS model of Malanson) were used to examine resilience behavior over a 200 yr period. Resilience behavior of coastal sage scrub is critically influenced by the presence of a competitive mix of inherently strongly and weakly resprouting species. Sites dominated by weak resprouters exhibit lower elasticity and less damping of year-to-year fluctuations in composition in the early post-fire years. Sites with a mixture of weak and strong resprouters have a lower threshold of disturbance (amplitude) before species extirpation occurs, a result intensified by a higher frequency of disturbance. Malleability is also greater in these systems under higher disturbance frequency.