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Environ Manage. 2006 Jun;37(6):826-39.

The interactive effects of fire and diversity on short-term responses of ecosystem processes in experimental mediterranean grasslands.

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Biodiversity Conservation Laboratory, Department of Environmental Studies, University of the Aegean, Mytilene, Lesbos, GR-811 00, Greece.


We conducted a field experiment using constructed communities to test whether species richness contributed to the maintenance of ecosystem processes under fire disturbance. We studied the effects of diversity components (i.e., species richness and species composition) upon productivity, structural traits of vegetation, decomposition rates, and soil nutrients between burnt and unburnt experimental Mediterranean grassland communities. Our results demonstrated that fire and species richness had interactive effects on aboveground biomass production and canopy structure components. Fire increased biomass production of the highest-richness communities. The effects of fire on aboveground biomass production at different levels of species richness were derived from changes in both vertical and horizontal canopy structure of the communities. The most species-rich communities appeared to be more resistant to fire in relation to species-poor ones, due to both compositional and richness effects. Interactive effects of fire and species richness were not important for belowground processes. Decomposition rates increased with species richness, related in part to increased levels of canopy structure traits. Fire increased soil nutrients and long-term decomposition rate. Our results provide evidence that composition within richness levels had often larger effects on the stability of aboveground ecosystem processes in the face of fire disturbance than species richness per se.

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