, Volume 213, Issue 3, pp 383-393

Soil seed bank, fire season, and temporal patterns of germination in a seeder-dominated Mediterranean shrubland

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Abstract

Soil seed banks play a major role in the post-fire regeneration of Mediterranean shrublands. They vary throughout the year in species composition, abundance, and readiness to germinate. After fire, germination occurs mainly during the following fall to spring. Time of germination can determine recruitment success. It is unclear what factors control post-fire germination and its timing. We tested the effects of season and fire on the readily germinable soil seed bank of a seeder-dominated shrubland. Plots were burned early and late in the summer season (ES, LS). Soil samples were collected before and after fire, and germinated in a chamber simulating successively autumn, winter, and spring conditions. Samples were kept moistened at all times. Fire intensity was similar between ES and LS. Several species of Cistus and herbs, mostly annuals, were dominant. Most germination occurred during the simulated-autumn period, with little subsequent germination during the following two periods. Germination speed (T 50) during simulated-autumn was similar for shrubs and herbs, and independent of season or fire. Germination was lower for two shrubs (Rosmarinus officinalis, Cistus salvifolius) and higher for herbaceous dicots in LS than in ES soils. Fire reduced monocots and enhanced Cistus. Germination period significantly interacted with fire and season in some groups or species, altering the simulated-autumn germination peak. We demonstrate that the seed bank can germinate swiftly under simulated-autumn conditions. Hence, water availability is the main controlling factor of germination. Fire season differentially affected some species or groups, and could affect the post-fire regeneration.