Increased fire severity alters initial vegetation regeneration across Calluna-dominated ecosystems
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Roger Grau-Andrés ; Gwilym Matt Davies ; Susan Waldron ; E. Marian Scott ; Alan Gray
Publication Year: 2019

Cataloging Information

  • beta-diversity
  • Calluna vulgaris
  • community composition
  • dwarf shrub
  • ericoid
  • fire severity
  • moorland
  • non-metric multidimensional scaling
  • peatland
  • Scotland
  • wildfires
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: December 12, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 56966


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.

Online Link(s):
Grau-Andrés, Roger; Davies, Gwilym Matt; Waldron, Susan; Scott, E. Marian; Gray, Alan. 2019. Increased fire severity alters initial vegetation regeneration across Calluna-dominated ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Management 231:1004-1011.