Increased fire severity alters initial vegetation regeneration across Calluna-dominated ecosystems

Grau-Andrés, R., Davies, G. M., Waldron, S. , Scott, E. M. and Gray, A. (2019) Increased fire severity alters initial vegetation regeneration across Calluna-dominated ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Management, 231, pp. 1004-1011. (doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.113)

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Calluna vulgaris-dominated habitats are valued for ecosystem services such as carbon storage and for their conservation importance. Climate and environmental change are altering their fire regimes. In particular, more frequent summer droughts will result in higher severity wildfires. This could alter the plant community composition of Calluna habitats and thereby influence ecosystem function. To study the effect of fire severity on community composition we used rain-out shelters to simulate drought prior to experimental burns at two Calluna-dominated sites, a raised bog and a heathland. We analysed species abundance in plots surveyed ca. 16 months after fire in relation to burn severity (indicated by fire-induced soil heating). We found that fire severity was an important control on community composition at both sites. Higher fire severity increased the abundance of ericoids, graminoids and acrocarpous mosses, and decreased the abundance of pleurocarpous mosses compared to lower severity fires. At the raised bog, the keystone species Sphagnum capillifolium and Eriophorum vaginatum showed no difference in regeneration with fire severity. Species and plant functional type beta-diversity increased following fire, and was similar in higher compared to lower severity burns. Our results further our understanding of the response of Calluna-dominated habitats to projected changes in fire regimes, and can assist land managers using prescribed fires in selecting burning conditions to achieve management objectives.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The University of Glasgow (Lord Kelvin and Adam Smith Scholarship) funded this research.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Waldron, Professor Susan and Scott, Professor Marian and Grau Andres, Mr Roger
Authors: Grau-Andrés, R., Davies, G. M., Waldron, S., Scott, E. M., and Gray, A.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
College of Science and Engineering > School of Mathematics and Statistics > Statistics
Journal Name:Journal of Environmental Management
ISSN (Online):1095-8630
Published Online:12 November 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd.
First Published:First published in Journal of Environmental Management 231: 1004-1011
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy
Data DOI:10.5525/gla.researchdata.621

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