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Keywords:

  • abundance;
  • arid grassland;
  • cover;
  • diversity;
  • post-fire vegetation dynamics

Abstract

Although there is an increased understanding of fire's role in maintaining grassland ecosystems, few studies on vegetation develops after a fire disturbance has been reported in arid perennial grasslands on the Loess Plateau. To understand how vegetation recovers after a fire disturbance, we studied three grassland sites with different times since last fire in arid steppe on the Loess Plateau, China. Results showed that 2 years after a fire, total cover, species abundance, and diversity rapidly recovered and increased to higher than unburned grasslands. Rapid recovery after a fire disturbance was mainly attributed to the removal of litter which provided better microhabitats for lower dominance species and the vegetative regeneration of perennial species following fire. Fire has little effects on the composition of grassland species in the long run if the grasslands were dominated by perennial species because asexual recruitment plays an important role in the vegetation recovery after fire. The accumulated litter seems not a major reason explaining why fire does not significantly alter vegetation composition in studied grasslands. Low frequency fire is helpful to the renewal of grassland. Our results suggested that opportune fire is an effective regulator of plant composition and maintenance in arid grassland.