Fuel Treatments & Effects
Prescribed Fire-use treatments
Fire regimes shape plant communities but are shifting with changing climate. More frequent fires of increasing intensity are burning across a broader range of seasons. Despite this, impacts that changes in fire season have on plant populations, or how they interact with other fire regime elements, are still relatively understudied. We asked (a) how does the season of fire affect plant vigor, including vegetative growth and flowering after a fire event, and (b) do different functional resprouting groups respond differently to the effects of season of fire? We sampled a total of 887 plants across 36 sites using a space-for-time design to assess resprouting vigor and reproductive output for five plant species. Sites represented either a spring or autumn burn, aged one to three years old. Season of fire had the clearest impacts on flowering in Lambertia formosa with a 152% increase in the number of plants flowering and a 45% increase in number of flowers per plant after autumn compared with spring fires. There were also season × severity interactions for total flowers produced for Leptospermum polygalifolium and L. trinervium with both species producing greater flowering in autumn, but only after lower severity fires. Severity of fire was a more important driver in vegetative growth than fire season. Season of fire impacts have previously been seen as synonymous with the effects of fire severity; however, we found that fire season and severity can have clear and independent, as well as interacting, impacts on post-fire vegetative growth and reproductive response of resprouting species. Overall, we observed that there were positive effects of autumn fires on reproductive traits, while vegetative growth was positively related to fire severity and pre-fire plant size.