, Volume 212, Issue 12, pp 2071-2083

Fire interval effects on persistence of resprouter species in Mediterranean-type shrublands

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Abstract

The capacity of many plant species to resprout in fire-prone shrublands is thought to engender persistence, yet management concerns exist for the long-term persistence of some resprouting species given anthropogenic impacts including shortened fire intervals, long periods of fire exclusion, and/or fires of increasingly high severity. We explored the potential demographic effects of different fire interval regimes on lignotuberous resprouter species using the last fire interval for 36 sites (33 experimental fires, 3 wildfires) in biodiverse SW Australian shrublands, spanning an interval range of 3–42 years. Mortality and regrowth 1 year following the last fire was assessed for >7,000 tagged individuals from 20 shrub and sub-shrub species. Using generalized linear mixed effect models, we estimated the influence of fire interval (and selected fire and environmental covariates) on mortality and regrowth rates across all species, and individually for the four most common species. The overall model, as well as the models for three of the four most common species (Banksia attenuata, Melaleuca leuropoma, and M. systena, but not Hibbertia hypericoides) supported the hypothesis of increased mortality at short and long fire intervals, most likely due to total non-structural carbohydrate (TNC) and bud-bank limitation, respectively. However, no relationship between regrowth rate and fire interval was detected, suggesting that increased mortality at short (3–5 year) fire intervals may not be due solely to resource (TNC) limitation. Results show that lignotuberous resprouters are potentially vulnerable to population decline through attrition of mature plants under both shortened and lengthened fire interval regimes.