Are post-fire residual forest patches refugia for boreal bryophyte species? Implications for ecosystem based management and conservation

Abstract

Residual patches of forest remaining after natural or anthropogenic disturbance may facilitate regeneration of fragmented forest. However, residual patch function remains unclear, especially after natural wildfire. We investigate the role of residual boreal forest patches as refugia for bryophytes and ask the question, do they house bryophyte communities similar to those encountered in undisturbed forests? Bryophytes were sampled in three habitat types in black spruce boreal forests illustrating a gradient of disturbance severity: undisturbed forests, residual patches and burned matrices. Temporal, disturbance severity, spatial and structural variables of habitats were also recorded. Bryophyte community composition differed among habitat types with residual patches characterized by higher species richness, the loss of forest specialists and the addition of disturbance-prone species. The bryophyte community found in residual patches is at the interface between the communities of undisturbed forests and burned matrices. As residual patches did not conserve all species, particularly forest specialists, they were not refugia. However, we identify temporal, spatial and structural characteristics that can maintain bryophyte communities most similar to undisturbed forests and enhance residual patch “refugia potential”. Residual patches enhance bryophyte diversity of the landscape housing species that cannot survive in the burned matrix. As conclusion we discuss the use of retention patches in harvested stands, together with the preservation of undisturbed stands that house singular bryophyte communities and especially sensitive forest specialists.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Chafi Chaieb who provided bryophyte samples from the undisturbed forest sites and Julie Arseneault for their identification. Authors would also like to thank: Emilie E. Chavel and Louiza Moussaoui who provided some of the environmental data used in this paper; Myriam Paquette, Flora Joubier, Louis Dubois and Philippe Heine for their field assistance; Danielle Charron, Philippe Duval, Raynald Julien, Danièle Laporte, Marie-Hélène Longpré, and Michel Poitras for their technical support; Marc J. Mazerolle for his statistical advice; and Jean Faubert for his precious help in the identification of the most difficult bryophyte samples.

Funding

This study was funded by the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) and the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in partnership with Tembec, Eacom and Resolute Forest Products.

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Correspondence to Marion Barbé.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Forest and plantation biodiversity.

Communicated by T. G. Allan Green.

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 43 kb) Temporal, severity, spatial and structural variables measured at each of the undisturbed forests, residual patches and burned matrices sampled

Online Resource 2

Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 78 kb) Number of bryophyte taxa found at each habitat type: undisturbed forest, residual patch and burned matrix in boreal black spruce feather-moss forest after wildfire in western Québec region

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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 18 kb) Correlation coefficients among 12 environmental variables

Online Resource 4

Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 18 kb) Mean and SD of continuous environmental variables per habitat type

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Barbé, M., Fenton, N.J. & Bergeron, Y. Are post-fire residual forest patches refugia for boreal bryophyte species? Implications for ecosystem based management and conservation. Biodivers Conserv 26, 943–965 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-016-1281-9

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Keywords

  • Black spruce forest
  • Community assembly
  • Disturbance prone species
  • Forest interior species
  • Forest remnant
  • Liverworts