Regeneration Strategies in Fynbos Plants and Their Influence on the Stability of Community Boundaries After Fire

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Abstract

An analysis of the range of regeneration strategies present in fynbos communities was a major aim of the work conducted at Swartboskloof. Information on the mechanisms whereby plants survive fire (e.g. Bell et al. 1984) and the attributes which allow them to persist in vegetation subjected to repeated fire (e.g. Noble and Slatyer 1980) is required to develop a sound understanding of the dynamics of vegetation subjected to fire. Such information is often only available for all of the plants if the communities are species-poor (e.g. Hobbs et al. 1984). In species-rich communities, it is usually the case that detailed information is only available for the dominant plants. A detailed knowledge of the responses of the constituent species in fynbos is restricted to the dominant shrubs of the family Proteaceae (e.g. Bond et al 1984). A few studies have listed survival mechanisms in other species (van der Merwe 1966; van Wilgen 1981; van Wilgen and Kruger 1981), but data on other vital attributes (juvenile periods, longevity, modes of seed dispersal, and seed bank longevity) are not available for the vast majority of fynbos species. Fynbos has a rich diversity of species, and fynbos communities may differ in the spectrum of responses (and therefore in their vulnerability to fire). In this chapter we quantify the range of regeneration strategies manifested in a sample of fynbos plants subjected to fire, and examine the differences between major vegetation communities in terms of these strategies.