|Title||Convergent phylogenetic and functional responses to altered fire regimes in mesic savanna grasslands of North America and South Africa|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2014|
|Authors||Forrestel, EJ, Donoghue, MJ, Smith, MD|
The importance of fire in the creation and maintenance of mesic grassland communities is well recognized. Improved understanding of how grasses – the dominant clade in these important ecosystems – will respond to alterations in fire regimes is needed in the face of anthropogenically driven climate and land-use change. Here, we examined how grass communities shift in response to experimentally manipulated fire regimes at multiple levels of community diversity – taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional – in C4-dominanted mesic savanna grassland sites with similar structure and physiognomy, yet disparate biogeographic histories. We found that the grass communities were similar in their phylogenetic response and aspects of their functional response to high fire frequency. Both sites exhibited phylogenetic clustering of highly abundant species in annually burned plots, driven by species of the Andropogoneae, and a narrow range of functional strategies associated with rapid post-fire regeneration in a high-light, nitrogen-limited environment. By examining multiple facets of diversity in a comparative context, we identified convergent phylogenetic and functional responses to altered fire regimes in two mesic savanna grasslands. Our results highlight the importance of a common filtering process associated with fire that is consistent across grasslands of disparate biogeographic histories and taxonomic representation.