Demography of a non-sprouting and resprouting Hakea species (Proteaceae) in fire-prone Eucalyptus woodlands of southeastern Australia in relation to stand age, drought and disease
Enright, N.J. and Goldblum, D. (1999) Demography of a non-sprouting and resprouting Hakea species (Proteaceae) in fire-prone Eucalyptus woodlands of southeastern Australia in relation to stand age, drought and disease. Plant Ecology, 144 (1). pp. 71-82.
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Population size-structures, seed production, canopy seed storage (serotiny), and recruitment were investigated in relation to fire, drought and disease for a pair of co-occurring resprouting and non-sprouting shrub species from the genus Hakea (Proteaceae) in fire-prone Eucalyptus woodlands in western Victoria, Australia. The non-sprouter species, Hakea decurrens, showed faster height growth, higher seed production and higher seed viability than the resprouter, Hakea rostrata. Population size structures in stands up to 24 years since last fire showed no evidence of inter-fire recruitment for either species. Following a fire in 1990 in a mixed species stand 15-20 years old, the estimated number of viable seeds released from canopy-stored seed banks was approximately equal for both species. However, the rate of seedling establishment in the first year was about 10 times higher, and seedling survivorship over the first 5 years was seven times higher, for the non-sprouter. Seedlings of Hakea decurrens and resprouts of Hakea rostrata began to produce seeds within three years of the last fire, while the few surviving seedlings of Hakea rostrata showed no evidence of reproductive maturity after six years. Inter-fire recruitment was recorded for the non-sprouter, Hakea decurrens, in the oldest stand (burned in 1967) between 24 and 28 years since last fire. This was associated with an increased rate of seed release from serotinous fruits due to the onset of high rates of adult plant mortality. High adult mortality and increased seed release correlated with increasing stand age, the occurrence of severe drought, and the likely presence of Phytophthora cinnamomi, a fungal pathogen which damages the root system, reducing water and nutrient uptake. There were no new recruits for the resprouter Hakea rostrata in this stand, but old plants continued to resprout from basal lignotubers and no mortality was observed. While recruitment of strongly serotinous shrub species is commonly described as being restricted to the immediate post-fire period, the present study illustrates that other events (e.g., senescence, drought, disease) can lead to recruitment of serotinous non-sprouters and may be important in the maintenance of populations during unusually long periods without fire.
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