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Compound Disease and Wildfire Disturbances Alter Opportunities for Seedling Regeneration in Resprouter-Dominated Forests
Ecosphere (2019)
  • Allison B. Simler-Williamson, University of California
  • Margaret R. Metz, Lewis & Clark College
  • Kerri M. Frangioso, University of California
  • Ross K. Meentemeyer, North Carolina State University
Human-altered disturbance regimes and changing climatic conditions can reduce seed availability and suitable microsites, limiting seedling regeneration in recovering forest systems. Thus, resprouting plants, which can persist in situ, are expected to expand in dominance in many disturbance-prone forests. However, resprouters may also be challenged by changing regimes, and the mechanisms determining facultative seedling recruitment by resprouting species, which will determine both the future spread and current persistence of these populations, are poorly understood. In the resprouter-dominated forests of coastal California, interactions between wildfire and an emerging disease, sudden oak death (SOD), alter disturbance severity and tree mortality, which may shift forest regeneration trajectories. We examine this set of compound disturbances to (1) assess the influence of seed limitation, biotic competition, and abiotic conditions on seedling regeneration in resprouting populations; (2) investigate whether disease-fire interactions alter postfire seedling regeneration, which have implications for future disease dynamics and shifts in forest composition. Following a wildfire that impacted a preexisting plot network in SOD-affected forests, we monitored seedling abundances and survival over eight years. With pre- and postfire data, we assessed relationships between regeneration dynamics and disturbance severity, biotic, and abiotic variables, using Bayesian generalized linear models and mixed models. Our results indicate that postfire seedling regeneration by resprouting species was shaped by contrasting mechanisms reflecting seed limitation and competitive release. Seedling abundances declined with decreasing postfire survival of mature, conspecific stems, while belowground survival of resprouting genets had no effect. However, where seed sources persisted, seedling abundances and survival generally increased with the prefire severity of disease impacts, suggesting that decreased competition with adults may enhance seedling recruitment in this resprouter-dominated system. Species’ regeneration responses varied with their relative susceptibility to SOD and suggest compositional shifts, which will determine future disease management and forest restoration actions. These results additionally highlight that mechanisms related to biotic competition, seed limitation, and opportunities for seedling recruitment beneath mature canopies may determine possible shifts in the occurrence of resprouting traits. This result has broad applications to other systems impacted by human-altered regimes where asexual persistence may be predicted to be a beneficial life history strategy.
  • disturbance interactions,
  • emerging infectious disease,
  • seedling regeneration,
  • sudden oak death,
  • vegetative reproduction,
  • wildfire
Publication Date
December, 2019
Citation Information
Allison B. Simler-Williamson, Margaret R. Metz, Kerri M. Frangioso and Ross K. Meentemeyer. "Compound Disease and Wildfire Disturbances Alter Opportunities for Seedling Regeneration in Resprouter-Dominated Forests" Ecosphere Vol. 10 Iss. 12 (2019) p. e02991-1 - e02991-16
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Creative Commons license
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC_BY International License.