Historical agriculture alters the effects of fire on understory plant beta diversity

  • Authors: Mattingly, W. Brett; Orrock, John L.; Collins, Cathy D.; Brudvig, Lars A.; Damschen, Ellen I.; Veldman, Joseph W.; Walker, Joan L.
  • Publication Year: 2015
  • Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
  • Source: Oecologia 177: 507-518
  • DOI: 10.1007/s00442-014-3144-y

Abstract

Land-use legacies are known to shape the diversity and distribution of plant communities, but we lack an understanding of whether historical land use influences community responses to contemporary disturbances. Because human-modified landscapes often bear a history of multiple land-use activities, this contingency can challenge our understanding of land-use impacts on plant diversity. We address this contingency by evaluating how beta diversity (the spatial variability of species composition), an important component of regional biodiversity, is shaped by interactions between historical agriculture and prescribed fire, two prominent disturbances that are often coincident in terrestrial ecosystems. At three study locations spanning 450 km in the southeastern United States, we surveyed longleaf pine woodland understory plant communities across 232 remnant and post-agricultural sites with differing prescribed fire regimes. Our results demonstrate that agricultural legacies are a strong predictor of beta diversity, but the direction of this land-use effect differed among the three study locations. Further, although beta diversity increased with prescribed fire frequency at each study location, this effect was influenced by agricultural land-use history, such that positive fire effects were only documented among sites that lacked a history of agriculture at two of our three study locations. Our study not only highlights the role of historical agriculture in shaping beta diversity in a fire-maintained ecosystem but also illustrates how this effect can be contingent upon fire regime and geographic location. We suggest that interactions among historical and contemporary landuse activities may help to explain dissimilarities in plant communities among sites in human-dominated landscapes.

  • Citation: Mattingly, W. Brett; Orrock, John L.; Collins, Cathy D.; Brudvig, Lars A.; Damschen, Ellen I.; Veldman, Joseph W.; Walker, Joan L. 2015. Historical agriculture alters the effects of fire on understory plant beta diversity. Oecologia. 177(2): 507-518. 12 p. DOI 10.1007/s00442-014-3144-y
  • Keywords: Agriculture, Beta diversity, Fire, Land-use, legacies, Longleaf pine
  • Posted Date: September 3, 2015
  • Modified Date: November 17, 2015
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.