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Fire effects on the seed bank of three Mediterranean shrubs: implications for fire management

Abstract

To evaluate fire effects on the soil seed bank of a Mediterranean heathland, soil and litter samples were collected under the three dominant shrub species (Erica australis L., Erica umbellata Loefl. ex L., and Pterospartum tridentatum (L.) Willk) before and after an experimental fire. Target plants were selected near to 12 points regularly spaced in a grid layout in a 50 × 50 m plot. Soil heating by the fire was estimated using thermocouples installed at 1.5 cm depth. The soil seed bank was dominated by E. australis and E. umbellata. Erica australis having statistically significantly higher germination densities under their conspecific shrubs. Pterospartum tridentatum was extremely underrepresented in the viable seed bank, despite being the dominant species in the vegetation. Fire did not produce significant differences in the overall germination, but post-fire germination density of E. australis was related to maximum temperatures recorded at 1.5 cm depth. Special focus was given to the seed bank of the obligate seeder E. umbellata and its possible implications in population regeneration after recurrent fires. There was, however, no evidence that current fire frequency would imply a risk of population decline, since E. umbellata seed bank is abundant despite the scarcity of adult shrubs.

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Acknowledgments

Paula Maia and Ana Vasques were funded through individual Ph.D. fellowships granted by FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) (SFRH/BD/42168/2007, SFRH/BD/47522/2008) and through individual research grants by the CASCADE project. A special thanks to Isabel Fernandes and Silvia Faria, for helping in the field sampling, and to Mariana Pedro for helping in the germination monitoring in the greenhouse. We fully acknowledge the commitment of the teams from CEIF-ADAI responsible for the execution of the experimental fire, as well as the Sapadores Florestais and Fire Brigade of Arganil. We also thank two anonymous reviewers by giving valuable comments that helped considerably improve the quality of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to P. Maia.

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Communicated by Neal J. Enright.

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11258_2016_650_MOESM1_ESM.docx

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 25 kb). Supplementary material 1. Spearman correlations between the different fire severity estimations used in the present study. Supplementary material 2. List of species identified in the study. This list comprises the great majority of species identified in the vegetation and in the seed bank, through indirect assessment. Species in bold are the target species of the study, as well as the dominant in the community. CIS – Cistaceae; COM – Compositae; ERI – Ericaceae; GRA – Gramineae; LEG – Leguminosae; PIN – Pinaceae; PLA – Plantaginaceae; VIO – Violaceae

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Maia, P., Vasques, A., Pausas, J.G. et al. Fire effects on the seed bank of three Mediterranean shrubs: implications for fire management. Plant Ecol 217, 1235–1246 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-016-0650-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-016-0650-5

Keywords

  • Erica umbellata
  • Erica australis
  • Pterospartum tridentatum
  • Heathland
  • Soil seed bank
  • Experimental fire
  • Temperature