Plant community dynamics following wildfire in the southern Appalachians
Reilly, Matthew Justin
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This study investigates changes in species richness and species turnover from the local to landscape scale after fire in the southern Appalachians. Results show that proportional increases in species richness of all plants are independent of scale up to 400 m2, but a lack of immigration from outside local communities limits species richness of trees at larger scales. High rates of survival and low rates of extinction after fire maintain patterns of spatial structure in local communities. Despite large changes in species richness, beta diversity and species turnover of all plants across the landscape showed little change. The importance of the underlying gradients that structure vegetation and the distribution of frequency of occurrence were not altered by fire. Although immigration of wind dispersed species affects species richness, dispersal limitation in dominant tree species maintains the spatial structure of communities and overall heterogeneity across the landscape.