, Volume 183, Issue 1, pp 1-8
Date: 16 Jul 2005

Seed supply of native and cultivated grasses in pine forests of the southwestern United States and the potential for vegetation recovery following wildfire

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Abstract

In this study we examined seed supply (seed banks and seed rain) and vegetation of seeded cultivated grasses and naturally occurring native grasses following a wildfire in northern New Mexico, USA. We specifically examined density of native and cultivated grass seeds and plants in areas of high, moderate, and low fire severity. We also examined the similarity between density of native and cultivated grass seeds to density of above ground plants. Density of native grass seed per square meter was higher in areas that burned under low fire severity (85.18 ± 44.83) compared to areas of moderate (18.52 ± 11.26) and high (7.41 ± 4.90) fire severity; however, differences were not statistically significant due, in part, to the high error associated with estimates. Density of cultivated grass seed per square meter was higher than that of native grass seed in areas of high (439.60 ± 117.98) and moderate (437.02 ± 146.50) fire severity, areas that were seeded with cultivated grasses after the wildfire for erosion control. Density of seeded grass plants per square meter was also higher than that of native grass plants in areas of high (18.78 ± 4.59 versus 0.33 ± 0.24) and moderate (8.22 ± 1.76 versus 0.22 ± 0.15) fire severity. There was a higher correspondence between the density of cultivated grass seeds and plants (highest value 0.32 ± 0.11) compared to density of native grass seeds and plants (highest value 0.05 ± 0.04). The high density of seeds, plants, and correspondence indicated that seeds from cultivated grasses are more likely to establish as post-fire vegetation than seeds from native grasses. Seeding with cultivated grasses following a wildfire may slow or inhibit recovery of native grasses in the short term. Longer-term implications for site occupancy deserve further study.