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Demographic responses of Pinguicula ionantha to prescribed fire: a regression-design LTRE approach

  • Population Ecology - Original Paper
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This study describes the use of periodic matrix analysis and regression-design life table response experiments (LTRE) to investigate the effects of prescribed fire on demographic responses of Pinguicula ionantha, a federally listed plant endemic to the herb bog/savanna community in north Florida. Multi-state mark–recapture models with dead recoveries were used to estimate survival and transition probabilities for over 2,300 individuals in 12 populations of P. ionantha. These estimates were applied to parameterize matrix models used in further analyses. P. ionantha demographics were found to be strongly dependent on prescribed fire events. Periodic matrix models were used to evaluate season of burn (either growing or dormant season) for fire return intervals ranging from 1 to 20 years. Annual growing and biannual dormant season fires maximized population growth rates for this species. A regression design LTRE was used to evaluate the effect of number of days since last fire on population growth. Maximum population growth rates calculated using standard asymptotic analysis were realized shortly following a burn event (<2 years), and a regression design LTRE showed that short-term fire-mediated changes in vital rates translated into observed increases in population growth. The LTRE identified fecundity and individual growth as contributing most to increases in post-fire population growth. Our analyses found that the current four-year prescribed fire return intervals used at the study sites can be significantly shortened to increase the population growth rates of this rare species. Understanding the role of fire frequency and season in creating and maintaining appropriate habitat for this species may aid in the conservation of this and other rare herb bog/savanna inhabitants.

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We thank Barry Grand for critical comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript, and Louise Kirn, Brian Martin, Ann Johnson, and Florida Natural Areas Inventory for assistance in locating populations and logistics in Apalachicola National Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest. A special thanks to Frank Thompson for going out of his way to make every stay in the Apalachicola National Forest a great one.

Thanks to Nedret Billor, Kyle Barrett, Roger Birkhead, Shannon Hoss, Christina Romagosa, Geoff Sorrell, John Steffen, and Matt Williams for helpful discussion. The quality of this manuscript was greatly enhanced by the comments of the handling editor Miguel Franco. This project was supported by a US Environmental Protection Agency Greater Research Opportunity (GRO) fellowship. Additional funding was generously provided by the Florida Native Plant Society. This work was conducted in accordance with all US state and federal laws under US Fish and Wildlife permit number TE108983-0.

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Correspondence to Herbert C. Kesler.

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Communicated by Miguel Franco.

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Kesler, H.C., Trusty, J.L., Hermann, S.M. et al. Demographic responses of Pinguicula ionantha to prescribed fire: a regression-design LTRE approach. Oecologia 156, 545–557 (2008).

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