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Facilitation and interference of seedling establishment by a native legume before and after wildfire

Posted date: September 27, 2011
Publication Year: 
Authors: Goergen, Erin; Chambers, Jeanne C.
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous Publication
Source: Oecologia. doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-2075-0.


In semi-arid ecosystems, heterogeneous resources can lead to variable seedling recruitment. Existing vegetation can influence seedling establishment by modifying the resource and physical environment. We asked how a native legume, Lupinus argenteus, modifies microenvironments in unburned and burned sagebrush steppe, and if L. argenteus presence facilitates seedling establishment of native species and the non-native annual grass, Bromus tectorum. Field treatments examined mechanisms by which L. argenteus likely influences establishment: (1) live L. argenteus; (2) dead L. argenteus; (3) no L. argenteus; (4) no L. argenteus with L. argenteus litter; (5) no L. argenteus with inert litter; and (6) mock L. argenteus. Response variables included soil nitrogen, moisture, temperature, solar radiation, and seedling establishment of the natives Elymus multisetus and Eriogonum umbellatum, and non-native B. tectorum. In both unburned and burned communities, there was higher spring soil moisture, increased shade and reduced maximum temperatures under L. argenteus canopies. Adult L. argenteus resulted in greater amounts of soil nitrogen (N) only in burned sagebrush steppe, but L. argenteus litter increased soil N under both unburned and burned conditions. Although L. argenteus negatively affected emergence and survival of B. tectorum overall, its presence increased B. tectorum biomass and reproduction in unburned plots. However, L. argenteus had positive facilitative effects on size and survival of E. multisetus in both unburned and burned plots. Our study indicates that L. argenteus can facilitate seedling establishment in semi-arid systems, but net effects depend on the species examined, traits measured, and level of abiotic stress.


Goergen, Erin; Chambers, Jeanne C. 2011. Facilitation and interference of seedling establishment by a native legume before and after wildfire. Oecologia. doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-2075-0.