For four consecutive years, following the fires in November 1993, temporal variations in species richness, cover and biomass of component plant groups in early post-fire chaparral succession were monitored on different aspects at the Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve, southern California. Plant groups were categorized based on growth form, life form, ability to fix nitrogen, geographic origin and regeneration strategies. North-facing slopes exhibited higher species richness, higher species turnover rate over time and faster vegetation recovery in terms of biomass accumulation and return to pre-fire species composition. This was probably due to higher species richness and biomass of nitrogen-fixing species found on north-facing slopes in comparison to south-facing slopes. On both north- and south-facing slopes, annuals had the highest species turnover rate, followed by herbaceous perennials and shrubs. In the first four post-fire years, annual species were the largest floristic group, but herbaceous perennials and shrubs were the major contributors to community biomass. Nitrogen-fixing species and exotics contributed significantly to early post-fire community structure. Although the general trends in post-fire succession are clear in terms of temporal changes in the relative proportions of different plant groups, environmental variation and the nature of plant life histories of component species, especially dominant species, could alter such trends significantly.
Additional publication details
Early post-fire succession in California chaparral: changes in diversity, density, cover, and biomass