Plant Ecology

, Volume 207, Issue 2, pp 245–256 | Cite as

Prescribed burning of northern heathlands: Calluna vulgaris germination cues and seed-bank dynamics

  • Inger E. Måren
  • Zdeněk Janovský
  • Joachim P. Spindelböck
  • Matthew I. Daws
  • Peter E. Kaland
  • Vigdis Vandvik


The European coastal heathlands are important habitats for international conservation. Today, these low-intensity farming systems are threatened by the cessation of traditional management regimes, such as grazing and prescribed burning. In natural systems, the effects of fire on germination responses are often explained by adaptation to fire over extended periods of time. However, Northern heathlands are semi-natural systems with only a limited fire history. We investigated whether and how the keystone species in this system, Calluna vulgaris, responded to prescribed burning, based on previous findings where Calluna germinable seed-bank densities showed a pronounced peak right after fire. Our main findings were (i) an ecophysiological response to smoke; (ii) a potential explanation for this pattern, revealed by a seed-bank experiment where we managed to re-create the germination pattern experimentally by using an aqueous plant-derived smoke solution; and (iii) a history of anthropogenic use of fire and the development of heathlands in the region documented through palaeoecological investigations.


Anthropogenic disturbance Germination cues Palaeoecology Plant-derived smoke Secondary succession 



We thank Neville Brown at Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens, Marnie E. Light and Johannes van Staden at the University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, for supplying the smoke solutions. We also thank Zoë Cook for valuable help at Wakehurst Place, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, and Hana Pánková and Mari Jokerud for their help during the experimental set-up at the Arboretum at Milde. We thank Ella Blomsø Ødegård and the staff at the Arboretum for their excellent technical support during the greenhouse trials, and also John Birks, Alison Hester and an anonymous referee for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Financial support was received from Bergen Myrdyrkings-forenings Fond, Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group (EECRG), University of Bergen, and Olaf Grolle Olsens Legat.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inger E. Måren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zdeněk Janovský
    • 3
  • Joachim P. Spindelböck
    • 2
  • Matthew I. Daws
    • 4
  • Peter E. Kaland
    • 2
  • Vigdis Vandvik
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Natural HistoryUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.Department of BotanyCharles University, PraguePrague 2Czech Republic
  4. 4.Seed Conservation DepartmentRoyal Botanic Gardens, KewArdingly, West SussexUK

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