The Effects of Disturbance History on Ground-Layer Plant Community Composition in British Columbia

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  • Plant communities are sensitive to perturbations and may display alternative recovery pathways depending on disturbance history. In sub-boreal lodgepole pine forests of central interior British Columbia, Canada, fire and logging are two widespread landscape disturbances that overlap in many regions. We asked whether cumulative, short-interval disturbance from logging and fire resulted in different ground-layer plant communities than resulted from fire alone. Using field-collected data, we compared the taxonomic composition and functional traits of 3-year old plant communities that were either harvested 6-to-13 years prior, or not harvested prior to being burned in a large stand-replacing fire. The taxonomic composition diverged between the two treatments, driven primarily by differences in a few key indicator species such as Petasites frigidus and Vaccinium membranaceum. Analysis of individual species’ morphological traits indicated that only a few species vary in size in relation to disturbance history. Our data suggest that a history of forest harvest leaves a subtle footprint on post-fire ground-layer plant communities at early stages of succession.
  • Keywords: multiple disturbance effects, wildfire, understory species composition, forest harvest, clearcut logging, plant functional traits, disturbance history
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  • Ton, M., & Krawchuk, M. A. (2016). The Effects of Disturbance History on Ground-Layer Plant Community Composition in British Columbia. Forests, 7(5), 109. doi:10.3390/f7050109
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  • 7
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  • 5
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  • This project received funding from Simon Fraser University, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions graduate fellowship to Michael Ton, and The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (DG 418376 to MAK).



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