Fire intensity, fire severity and ecosystem response in heathlands: factors affecting the regeneration of Calluna vulgaris
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Gwilym Matt Davies; A. Adam Smith; Angus J. MacDonald; Jonathan D. Bakker; Colin J. Legg
Publication Year: 2010

Cataloging Information

  • Calluna spp.
  • Calluna vulgaris
  • Cervus
  • Cervus elaphus
  • conservation
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • experimental fire
  • fire hazard reduction
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire regimes
  • fire severity
  • fireline intensity
  • grassland
  • grazing
  • heather
  • heathlands
  • Lagopus lagopus
  • Lagopus scoticus
  • Lagopus spp.
  • litter
  • moisture
  • moorland
  • mosses
  • Ovis spp.
  • peat
  • post-fire recovery
  • pyric herbivory
  • pyrometers
  • range management
  • redundancy analysis
  • regeneration
  • residence time
  • seedlings
  • thermocouples
  • United Kingdom
  • vegetation structure
  • vegetation surveys
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 17295
Tall Timbers Record Number: 24964
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-J
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


1) Upland heaths in the UK are of significant conservation importance. Large areas are managed through prescribed burning to improve habitat and grazing for red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus, deer Cervus elaphus and sheep Ovis aries. Previous research has identified trends in vegetation development following burning, but has not linked this to variation in fire behaviour and severity. 2) We burned 15 experimental fires on an area of Calluna vulgaris-dominated moorland, and recorded pre- and post-fire vegetation structure and composition, fire behaviour characteristics, and several 'proxy measures' of fire severity. 3) We distinguished measures of fire severity, describing the immediate physical effects of burning, from the long-term ecosystem responses of substrate development and Calluna regeneration. Proxy measures of fire severity did not relate strongly to fire behaviour or ecosystem response. 4) Post-fire regeneration was strongly linked to stand age and post-fire substrate type. Fire behaviour and severity had little effect, though fire-induced ground-surface heating may promote Calluna seedling establishment. Vegetative regeneration of Calluna was extremely poor in older stands, as was seedling establishment in areas where the post-fire substrate was dominated by live or dead pleurocarpous moss mats. 5) Synthesis and applications. Significant nonlinearities exist in fire severity on heathlands, with step changes related to the depth and moisture content of moss/litter layers and peat. Younger stands, less than c. 30 cm tall, should be the focus of management if the objective is to maximize Calluna regeneration. Burning older and uneven-aged stands is discouraged except for the purposes of fire hazard management. Managers should develop landscape-level burn plans to target burning effectively and create diverse fire regimes.

Online Link(s):
Davies, G. Matt; Smith, A. Adam; MacDonald, Angus J.; Bakker, Jonathan D.; Legg, Colin J. 2010. Fire intensity, fire severity and ecosystem response in heathlands: factors affecting the regeneration of Calluna vulgaris. Journal of Applied Ecology 47(2):356-365.