Spatial variation of seedling distribution in an east Mediterranean pine woodland at the beginning of post-fire succession
- Cite this article as:
- Eshel, A., Henig-Sever, N. & Ne'eman, G. Plant Ecology (2000) 148: 175. doi:10.1023/A:1009880416760
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Most of the area in pine woodlands is occupied by perennial seeders that regenerate from seeds in the first winter after the fire and by annuals. Control of the germination in the regenerating vegetation after wildfire is therefore a primary ecological component of the post-fire succession in this ecosystem. The aim of the study presented here was to determine the distribution of Pinus, Cistus and other plants seeds around burned Pinus halepensis trees, and to measure the conditions related to seed germination in the upper soil layers in the same locations. The study was carried out in a 50-year old planted Pinus halepensis woodland that was burned down by a wildfire in July 1995. The variation of seedbank density was determined by collecting samples under the canopies of burned trees and in a nearby open area. Pine seedbank density decreased and that of Cistus and annuals increased with increasing distance from the burned trunks. Most pine seeds were present in the ash layer while those of the other plants were in the soil. In situ germination experiments showed that seedling density decreased with distance from the burned trunks while the proportion of pines in the seedling population increased. This was a result of seedbank variation and germination inhibition by the high pH conditions caused by the ash. The establishment of sparse pine seedling under the dead tree canopies insured their rapid development without interference by other plants and played a key role in the regeneration and stability of the pine woodland community. The concomitant mass germination of the perennial seeders in the rest of the area prevented invasion by annuals.