Authors: Eric S. Menges; Stacy A. Smith; Stephanie M. Koontz; Pedro F. Quintana-AscencioWe integrate nearly three decades of demographic sampling, vegetation measurements, species responses to varying fire intensity, and a fire frequency experiment to explore effects of fire regimes on biodiversity in Florida scrub. Dominant resprouting species (oaks, palms, ericads) persist for decades without fire, resprout strongly after fires of varying intensity, and are only weakly affected by high fire frequencies. In contrast, a foundation shrub that does not resprout (Florida rosemary) requires less frequent fires to replenish its persistent seed bank, from which populations recover after fire. Florida scrub has many rare endemic plants which vary in their responses to the fire regime. Some rare resprouters may be harmed by high fire intensity. Obligate seeders usually require fairly frequent fire as they are outcompeted with longer fire return intervals. Species that do not resprout or have persistent seed banks will benefit from patchy fires so that dispersal from unburned refugia accelerates their recovery post-fire. While an invariant fire regime may create favorable conditions for most dominant species, rarer plants have differing requirements. Land managers can create patchy fires and spatial and temporal variation in fire intensity and frequency to allow these species to co-exist and maintain biodiversity.
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