Fire intensity is one of the important components of a fire regime. However, relatively few studies have linked fire intensity with post-fire population vital rates. In this study, we explored the effects of fire intensity on population vital rates of Chamaecrista keyensis Pennell (Fabaceae) up to two years post-fire. C. keyensis is an endemic understory plant of pine rockland, a fire-dependent ecosystem of the Lower Florida Keys. We measured one fire intensity indicator, fire temperature reached by steel plates on the ground, during three prescribed fires at different sites. We followed marked individuals up to two years post-fire to derive annual survival, annual growth rate, percentage of fruiting plants, mean number of fruits per reproductive plant, and number of seedlings per census plot (1 m2) of C. keyensis. We found fire intensity had significant effects on reproduction in the first year post-fire only. More specifically, mean number of fruits and percentage of fruiting plants increased as fire intensity increased. Results from this study suggest that extremely low fire intensity caused by very short fire return intervals (e.g., less than three years) may not provide sufficient stimulation to reproduction to achieve the best post-fire recovery for C. keyensis.
Additional Publication Details
Effects of fire intensity on vital rates of an endemic herb of the Florida keys, USA