Fire Severity and Regeneration Strategy Influence Shrub Patch Size and Structure Following Disturbance
AffiliationSchool of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona
North American Monsoon
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CitationFire Severity and Regeneration Strategy Influence Shrub Patch Size and Structure Following Disturbance 2017, 8 (7):221 Forests
Rights© 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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AbstractClimate change is increasing the frequency and extent of high-severity disturbance, with potential to alter vegetation community composition and structure in environments sensitive to tipping points between alternative states. Shrub species display a range of characteristics that promote resistance and resilience to disturbance, and which yield differential post-disturbance outcomes. We investigated differences in shrub patch size and stem density in response to variations in ﬁre severity, vegetation community, and post-disturbance reproductive strategies in Sky Island forested ecosystems in the southwestern United States. Patterns in shrub structure reﬂect the effects of ﬁre severity as well as differences among species with alternate post-ﬁre reproductive strategies. Increased ﬁre severity correlates with larger patch sizes and greater stem densities; these patterns are observed across multiple ﬁre events, indicating that disturbance legacies can persist for decades. High severity ﬁre produces the largest shrub patches, and variance in shrub patch size increases with severity. High severity ﬁre is likely to promote expansion of shrub species on the landscape, with implications for future community structure. Resprouting species have the greatest variability in patch structure, while seeding species show a strong response to disturbance: resprouting species dominateatlowdisturbanceseverities,andobligateseedersdominatehighseverityareas. Differential post-ﬁre reproductive strategies are likely to generate distinct patterns of vegetation distribution following disturbance, with implications for community composition at various scales. Shrub species demonstrate ﬂexible responses to wildﬁre disturbance severity that are reﬂected in shrub patch dynamics at small and intermediate scales.
NoteOpen Access Journal
VersionFinal published version
SponsorsResearch funding was provided by the Coronado National Forest, through the Arizona FireScape program (www.azﬁrescape.org).