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Fire and mice: seed predation moderates fire's influence on conifer recruitment

Author(s): Rafal Zwolak, Dean E. Pearson, Yvette K. Ortega, Elizabeth E. Crone
Year Published: 2010

In fire-adapted ecosystems, fire is presumed to be the dominant ecological force, and little is known about how consumer interactions influence forest regeneration. Here, we investigated seed predation by deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and its effects on recruitment of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) seedlings in unburned and recently burned fire-adapted montane forests in west-central Montana, USA. Deer mice were almost twice as abundant in burned than unburned stands. Deer mouse removal of seeds from petri dishes was two times higher in burned than in unburned stands, and seed removal levels were 8% higher for ponderosa pine than for the smaller Douglas-fir seeds. In seed-addition experiments, emergence of seedlings in deer mouse-exclusion cages was almost six times higher in burned compared to unburned forest. In both burned and unburned forest, emergence was lower for ponderosa pine than for Douglas-fir. Seedling survival to establishment did not differ between conifer species but was considerably higher in burned than in unburned forest. However, effects of seed predation on recruitment prevailed over fire effects: in cages allowing access by deer mice, emergence and establishment were extremely rare for both conifer species in both burned and unburned forest. This research suggests that consumer interactions can substantially influence recruitment even in fire-adapted forest ecosystems.

Citation: Zwolak, Rafal; Pearson, Dean E.; Ortega, Yvette K.; Crone, Elizabeth E. 2010. Fire and mice: seed predation moderates fire's influence on conifer recruitment. Ecology. 91(4): 1124-1131.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Wildlife, Fire & Wildlife, Mammals, Rodents
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 8207
FRAMES RCS number: 8780
Record updated: Mar 20, 2018