Postfire seed bank dynamics in semiarid grasslands

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Abstract

We evaluated the combined effects of fire after drought on the seed bank composition and its role in the postfire recovery of NW Patagonia grasslands. During three years, we monitored the seed bank and the aboveground vegetation. Species were arranged in functional groups and Detrended Correspondence Analysis was used to separate sites according to species and functional groups. Similarity between aboveground vegetation and seed bank was calculated with SØrensen Index. In the first year, the seed density was similar in the control and burned sites and was lower than following years in all the sites. The species that survived the high temperatures were all annuals with the exception of the perennial species Fabiana imbricata and Rumex acetosella. In the second postfire year, the diversity and seed density increased due to the contribution of fugitive species (rare in the community) and exotic annual species. Seed bank of perennial species was the most affected by fire and just recovered in the third year. Drought did not affect the similarity between the seed bank and vegetation. Fire had low impact on the total seed bank, probably due to the heat buffering nature of the soil, whereas drought reduced significantly seed bank size and richness. Seed bank contributes to grassland richness maintenance.

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