Consistent physiological, ecological and evolutionary effects of fire regime on conservative leaf economics strategies in plant communities

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

The functional response of plant communities to disturbance is hypothesised to be controlled by changes in environmental conditions and evolutionary history of species within the community. However, separating these influences using direct manipulations of repeated disturbances within ecosystems is rare. We evaluated how 41 years of manipulated fire affected plant leaf economics by sampling 89 plant species across a savanna-forest ecotone. Greater fire frequencies created a high-light and low-nitrogen environment, with more diverse communities that contained denser leaves and lower foliar nitrogen content. Strong trait–fire coupling resulted from the combination of significant intraspecific trait–fire correlations being in the same direction as interspecific trait differences arising through the turnover in functional composition along the fire-frequency gradient. Turnover among specific clades helped explain trait–fire trends, but traits were relatively labile. Overall, repeated burning led to reinforcing selective pressures that produced diverse plant communities dominated by conservative resource-use strategies and slow soil nitrogen cycling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-608
Number of pages12
JournalEcology letters
Volume26
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Kally Worm for assistance with data collection. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Long‐Term Ecological Research (LTER) grants DEB‐0620652, DEB‐1234162, and DEB‐1831944, Biological Integration Institutes grant NSF‐DBI‐2021898, and USDA grant 2018‐67012‐28077.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords

  • eco-evolution
  • functional traits
  • leaf physiology
  • nutrient cycling
  • phylogenetic constraints
  • savanna
  • stoichiometry

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Letter

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