Article

Oecologia

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 263-271

First online:

Fire-mediated effects of shrubs, lichens and herbs on the demography of Hypericum cumulicola in patchy Florida scrub

  • Pedro F. Quintana-AscencioAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5245, USA
  • , Marina Morales-HernándezAffiliated withArchbold Biological Station, P.O. Box 2057, Lake Placid, FL 33862, USA, Fax: (941) 699-1927; e-mail: ESMENGES@ct.net

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Abstract

Understanding the effect of disturbance and interspecific interactions on population dynamics and availability of suitable habitats for colonization and growth is critical for conservation and management of endangered species. Hypericum cumulicola is a narrowly endemic, small perennial herb virtually restricted to open areas of well-drained white sand in Florida rosemary scrub, a naturally patchy community that burns about every 20–80 years. Over 1 year (September 1994 to September 1995) we evaluated variation in survival, growth and fecundity among 1214 individuals in 14 rosemary scrub patches of different sizes (0.09–1.85 ha) and fire histories (2, 8–10, and >20 years since the last fire). Fire kills aboveground individuals of H. cumulicola, but new individuals were present a year after fire. Recruitment decreased in patches more than a decade post-fire. Survival, annual height growth rate, and fecundity (number of flowers and fruits) were higher in recently burned patches. Scrub patch size did not affect these demographic variables. Survival was positively associated with the presence of conspecifics and negatively related to proximity to the dominant shrub Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides), prior reproductive output, and ground lichen cover. Since H. cumulicola and other herbaceous species in the rosemary scrub depend on sporadic fires to decrease interference of shrubs and ground lichens, its persistence may be threatened by fire suppression.

Key words Competition Endangered species Florida rosemary Disturbance Management