Response of vegetation to fire disturbance: short-term dynamics in two savanna physiognomies

Abstract

Fire is a constitutive ecological force in savanna ecosystems, but few studies have monitored its short-term effects on plant community dynamics. This study investigated changes in plant diversity in the South American savanna (Cerrado) after severe disturbance by fire. We monitored 30 permanent plots (10 m × 5 m) distributed in two Cerrado physiognomies (típico: more forested; ralo: grass-dominated), being 10 plots in the area disturbed by fire, and five in a preserved control area (undisturbed). From August 2010 to June 2011, we evaluated changes in species richness, abundance and composition of savanna vegetation. Monitoring started one week after the fire; disturbed plots were surveyed monthly, while control plots were surveyed every two months. We observed rapid reassembling in both physiognomies: plots affected by fire showed rapid increase in species richness and plant density during the first four months after the disturbance. Concerning species composition, disturbed plots in the cerrado típico tended to converge to control plots after one year, but each local assemblage followed particular temporal trajectories. A different pattern characterized cerrado ralo plots, which showed heterogeneous trajectories and lack of convergence between disturbed and control plots; the structure of these assemblages will likely change in next years. In conclusion, our results showed that fire significantly affected plant diversity in the two savanna physiognomies (cerrado típico and ralo), but also indicated that community reassembling is fast, with different dynamics between Cerrado physiognomies.

Abbreviations

APG:

Angiosperm Phylogeny Group

cerrado ralo:

RF

cerrado ralo control:

RC

cerrado típico:

TF

cerrado típico control:

TC

RM-ANOVA:

Repeated Measures-Analysis of variance

NMDS:

Non-metric MultiDimensional Scaling

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das Chagas, D.B., Pelicice, F.M. Response of vegetation to fire disturbance: short-term dynamics in two savanna physiognomies. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 19, 211–222 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1556/168.2018.19.3.2

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Keywords

  • Cerrado
  • Community assembly
  • Composition
  • Resilience
  • Species richness
  • Temporal trajectory