University of Oulu

Werner, C. M., Kimuyu, D., Veblen, K. E., Sensenig, R. L., LaMalfa, E., and Young, T. P.. 2021. Synergistic effects of long‐term herbivory and previous fire on fine‐scale heterogeneity of prescribed grassland burns. Ecology. 102(4):e03270. 10.1002/ecy.3270

Synergistic effects of long‐term herbivory and previous fire on fine‐scale heterogeneity of prescribed grassland burns

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Author: Werner, Chhaya M.1,2,3,4; Kimuyu, Duncan5,6; Veblen, Kari E.7;
Organizations: 1Department of Plant Sciences and Graduate Group in Population Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616 USA
2Department of Physiological Diversity, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), Leipzig D-04318 Germany
3German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig D-04103 Germany
4Department of Ecology, University of Oulu, Oulu FI-90014 Finland
5Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki, Kenya
6Department of Natural Resources, Karatina University, Karatina 10101 Kenya
7Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322 USA
8Department of Biological Sciences, Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana 46526 USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-04-29


Grassland and savanna ecosystems, important for both livelihoods and biodiversity conservation, are strongly affected by ecosystem drivers such as herbivory, fire, and drought. Interactions among fire, herbivores and vegetation produce complex feedbacks in these ecosystems, but these have rarely been studied in the context of fuel continuity and resultant fire heterogeneity. We carried out 36 controlled burns within replicated experimental plots that had allowed differential access by wild and domestic large herbivores since 1995 in a savanna ecosystem in Kenya. Half of these were reburns of plots burned 5 yr previously. We show here that the fine‐scale spatial heterogeneity of fire was greater in plots (1) previously burned, (2) accessible to large herbivores, and especially (3) these two in combination. An additional embedded experiment demonstrated that even small experimental burn‐free patches can have strong positive effects on tree saplings, which experienced less damage during controlled burns and quicker postfire recovery. This work highlights the importance of simultaneously examining the interactions between fire and herbivory on fuel heterogeneity, which can have important impacts on the growth of woody saplings in savanna grasslands.

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Series: Ecology
ISSN: 0012-9658
ISSN-E: 1939-9170
ISSN-L: 0012-9658
Volume: 102
Issue: 4
Article number: e03270
DOI: 10.1002/ecy.3270
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Funding support came from the National Science Foundation (LTREB BSR 08‐16453, 12‐56004, 13‐56034, and 19‐31224), National Geographic Society (grants 9106‐12 and 9986‐16), and Goshen College; and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a University of California Davis Department of Plant Sciences MacDonald Fellowship to C. Werner.
Copyright information: © 2020 The Authors. Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Ecological Society of America. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.