Effects of drought and fire on resprouting capacity of 52 temperate Australian perennial native grasses Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • It remains uncertain how perennial grasses with different photosynthetic pathways respond to fire, and how this response varies with stress at the time of burning. Resprouting after fire was examined in relation to experimentally manipulated pre-fire watering frequencies. We asked the following questions: are there response differences to fire between C3 and C4 grasses? And, how does post-fire resprouting vary with pre-fire drought stress? Fifty-two perennial Australian grasses (37 genera, 13 tribes) were studied. Three watering frequencies were applied to simulate increasing drought. Pre-fire tiller number, tiller density, specific leaf area and leaf dry matter content were measured as explanatory variables to assess response. Most species (90%) and individuals (79%) resprouted following experimental burning. C4 grasses had higher probabilities of surviving fire relative to C3 grasses. Responses were not related to phylogeny or tribe. High leaf dry matter content reduced the probability of dying, but also reduced the re-emergence of tillers. Post-fire tiller number increased with increasing drought, regardless of photosynthetic type, suggesting that drought plays a role in the ability of grasses to recover after fire. This has implications for understanding the persistence of species in landscapes where fire management is practiced.

publication date

  • 2019