, Volume 159, Issue 3, pp 483-492
Date: 13 Dec 2008

Does post-fire plant regeneration mode affect the germination response to fire-related cues?

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Abstract

Vegetative resprouting, soil or canopy-stored seed banks, post-fire seed dispersal and germination are the major strategies by which plants regenerate after fires. Post-fire regeneration modes of plants are commonly based on the presence or absence of post-fire recruitment as well as the presence or absence of post-fire resprouting. High temperatures, smoke and ash are characteristics of fire and the post-fire environment. We hypothesized that heat, smoke, ash and pH will have differential effects on seed germination depending on species’ post-fire regeneration strategies: serotinous vs. nonserotinous (which may have soil seed banks) and resprouters vs. nonresprouters (which may be obligate seeders). Here we examined the effects of these factors on the germination of 27 common east Australian species. Most serotinous species supported our hypothesis by showing no effect or reduced germination in response to heat. However, contrary to our prediction, all nonserotinous nonresprouting species also showed no effect or reduced germination in response to heat. Smoke, contrary to our hypothesis, had a negative or no effect on all serotinous and nonresprouting species, but no clear directional effect on serotinous and resprouting species. Supporting our hypotheses, ash and high pH showed positive or nonsignificant effects on the germination of all serotinous resprouting species, and a negative or no effect on nonserotinous resprouting species. However, contrary to our prediction, it had a negative or no effect on the serotinous nonresprouting species and no clear effect on nonserotinous nonresprouting species. We also discovered large differences in germination responses between conspecific populations that varied in their degree of resprouting. Although our data confirmed several of our predictions, the overall conclusion is that the responses of seeds to heat, smoke, ash and pH are not tightly associated with post-fire regeneration functional types.

Communicated by Jon Keeley.