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Population biology and regeneration of forbs and shrubs after fire in Brazilian Campos grasslands

Abstract

Fire is an important factor in several ecosystems, affecting plant population biology. Campos grasslands are under constant influence of disturbance, mostly grazing and fire. However, few studies evaluated the effect of fire on plant population biology of grassland species. Therefore, we aim to analyze the effect of fire on the population biology of four species, from different functional groups and regeneration strategies: Chaptalia runcinata (forb, resprouter, absence of belowground organ), Vernonia flexuosa (forb, resprouter, presence of rhizophore), Eupatorium ligulaefolium (shrub, resprouter, presence of xylopodium) and Heterothalamus psiadioides (shrub, obligate seeder). Seven plots were established in different sites in southern Brazil: frequently burned (FB) and excluded from fire since 6 years (E). All plots were subjected to controlled burns during summer. Before experiments, populations were sampled. Further observations were carried out after 90 and after 360 days of fire experiments. In addition, we counted the number of seedlings and resprouters recruited after fire. Heat shock experiments were conducted with two species (H. psiadioides and V. flexuosa), as well as the study of the bud bank of the following species: E. ligulaefolium and V. flexuosa. The obligate seeder species had all individuals killed by fire and established only after 1 year. Resprouters, however, showed new stems immediately after fire. E. ligulaefolium and V. flexuosa showed only vegetative regeneration from belowground organs and more individuals in excluded sites 1 year after the fire. The bud bank of E. ligulaefolium tended to be larger in excluded sites, whilst V. flexuosa showed an opposite result. High temperatures did not enhance nor kill seeds from both studied species. Vegetative regeneration was the most important strategy for all studied species, except for H. psiadioides, the obligate seeder species. Fire thus, plays an important role on population structure and demography, being also important for plant recruitment.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the security guard from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) for giving us their support during field work. We thank Daniela Röder and Andrea Skiba for reviewing the manuscript. A. F. received support from KAAD and V. P. from CNPq. The project was supported by the DFG (German Research Foundation, Project PF 120/10-2).

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Correspondence to Alessandra Fidelis.

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Fidelis, A., Müller, S.C., Pillar, V.D. et al. Population biology and regeneration of forbs and shrubs after fire in Brazilian Campos grasslands. Plant Ecol 211, 107–117 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-010-9776-z

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Keywords

  • Obligate seeder
  • Plant population structure
  • Resprouter
  • Bud bank
  • Heat shock experiment