Data from: Fire after a mast year triggers mass recruitment of slender mulga (Acacia aptaneura), a desert shrub with heat-stimulated germination
Wright, Boyd Robert; Fensham, Roderick J. (2018), Data from: Fire after a mast year triggers mass recruitment of slender mulga (Acacia aptaneura), a desert shrub with heat-stimulated germination, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vr064
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Fire typically triggers extensive regeneration of plants with heat-stimulated germination by causing short periods of intense soil heating. If plants with heat-stimulated germination are also subject to seed predation and display mast-seeding cycles, postfire recruitment may be contingent on the seedfall density of prefire masts, and on whether granivores are satiated at the time of fire. METHODS: We conducted a longitudinal seedbank study and a mensurative field experiment in central Australia to examine whether fire and the variation in seedfall density across sites in a mast year interact to influence recruitment of slender mulga (Acacia aptaneura), an iteroparous masting shrub with heat-stimulated germination. KEY RESULT: The seedbank study showed seedbank pulsing after masting, with mean seed counts in the upper 4-cm soil layer being 132.8 seeds/m2 12-mo after a dense seedfall, but only 3.8 seeds/m2 following a year with no seed production. Consistent with this, recruitment increased postfire at sites where denser seedfall had occurred during the preburn mast year. Conversely, little recruitment occurred at unburnt populations, irrespective of prefire seedfall density. CONCLUSIONS: We attribute our findings to: (1) elevated soil temperatures during fires stimulating germination of heat-cued seeds; and (2) granivore satiation following masting facilitating assimilation of seeds into the soil seedbank. These results highlight the importance of rare seed-input events for regeneration in fire-prone systems dominated by masting plants, and provide the first example from an arid biome of fire interacting with masting to influence recruitment.