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Damage of alpine vegetation by the 2009 fire on Mt. Shirouma, central Japan: comparison between herbaceous vegetation and Pinus pumila scrub


A fire occurred (0.59 ha) in an alpine fellfield (2600 m a.s.l.) on Mount Shirouma, central Japan, on 9 May 2009 before the start of the growing season. Herbaceous plants and dwarf pine Pinus pumila dominated the site. Plots were established in burned and unburned herb vegetation and P. pumila scrub just after the fire to monitor vegetation recovery. This study reports the short-term monitoring results 3 months after the fire. Burned herb vegetation mostly recovered by late August 2009. However, burned P. pumila did not recover, and other alpine plants were scarce in burned P. pumila scrub. The observed number of species in herb vegetation was 15–20 m−2 whereas it was only 1–6 m−2 in P. pumila scrub. The total cover of plants was 111–129% for burned herb vegetation but was only 8–31% for burned P. pumila scrub. Although the species composition in P. pumila scrub distinctly differed between burned and unburned plots, in herb vegetation it was similar between them. Therefore, P. pumila scrub was greatly damaged by the fire, whereas herb vegetation was not damaged. Rapid recovery of herbaceous plants was because winter buds in the soil were not damaged by the fire, but winter buds on shoots of P. pumila were burned. Therefore, the difference in winter bud location (above or belowground) may have resulted in the difference in damage between herbaceous plants and P. pumila.

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I thank the staff of the Chushin Forestry Office for their kind support. This study was done as a part of commission researches from Chushin Forestry Office.

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Correspondence to Koichi Takahashi.

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Takahashi, K. Damage of alpine vegetation by the 2009 fire on Mt. Shirouma, central Japan: comparison between herbaceous vegetation and Pinus pumila scrub. Landscape Ecol Eng 8, 123–128 (2012).

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  • Alpine plant
  • Disturbance
  • Fire
  • Ordination
  • Vegetation recovery