, Volume 171, Issue 2, pp 487–494 | Cite as

The role of fire in structuring trait variability in Neotropical savannas

  • Vinícius de L. Dantas
  • Juli G. Pausas
  • Marco Antônio Batalha
  • Priscilla de Paula Loiola
  • Marcus Vinicius Cianciaruso
Community ecology - Original research


Intraspecific trait variability plays a fundamental role in community structure and dynamics; however, few studies have evaluated its relative importance to the overall response of communities to environmental pressures. Since fire is considered a key factor in Neotropical savannas, we investigated to what extent the functional effects of fire in a Brazilian savanna occurs via intra- or interspecific trait variability. We sampled 12 traits in communities subjected to three fire regimes in the last 12 years: annual, biennial, and protected. To evaluate fire’s relative effects, we fitted a general linear mixed models with species as random and fire as fixed factors, using: (1) all species in the communities (i.e., considering intra- and interspecific variabilities); (2) 18 species common to all fire regimes (i.e., intraspecific variability only); and (3) all species with their overall average trait values (i.e., interspecific variability only). We assessed the relative role of intra- or interspecific variability by comparing the significance of each trait in the three analyses. We also compared the within and between fire variabilities with a variance component analysis. Five traits presented larger intraspecific than interspecific variability, and the main effect of fire occurred at the intraspecific level. These results confirm that it is important to consider intraspecific variability to fully understand fire-prone communities. Moreover, trait variability was larger within than among fire regimes. Thus, fire may act more as an external filter, preventing some of the species from the regional pool from colonizing the cerrado, than as an internal factor structuring the already filtered cerrado communities.


Cerrado Fire regimes Intraspecific variability Plant traits Variance components 



We are grateful to Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for financial support and scholarships granted to the authors; to Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA). for research permission; to Emas National Park staff. for logistical assistance; to P.K. Amorim, S.P. Campos, C.A. Casali, I.A. Silva, A.V.F. Jardim, M.O. Maia, L.T. Manica, F.Q. Martins, D.M. Silva, and L. Sims for helping us in fieldwork; and to Charlotte Reemts for kindly revising the English. J.G.P. acknowledges the support from the VIRRA project (CGL2009-12048/BOS; the Spanish Government). The study complies with the current laws of Brazil.

Supplementary material

442_2012_2431_MOESM1_ESM.doc (42 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 42 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vinícius de L. Dantas
    • 1
  • Juli G. Pausas
    • 2
  • Marco Antônio Batalha
    • 1
  • Priscilla de Paula Loiola
    • 1
  • Marcus Vinicius Cianciaruso
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de BotânicaUniversidade Federal de São CarlosSão CarlosBrazil
  2. 2.CIDE-CSICMoncadaSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade Federal de GoiásGoiâniaBrazil

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