Resprouting as a life history strategy in woody plant communities


  • Peter J. Bellingham,

  • Ashley D. Sparrow


Resprouting is an efficient means by which woody plants regain biomass lost during disturbance, but there is a life history trade-off that occurs in all disturbance regimes between investment in the current generation through resprouting vs investment in future generations at the same or more distant sites. The relative allocation to resprouting vs seeding in woody plant communities is dictated by the nature of disturbance regimes. Resprouting is the predominant response to the least severe disturbance regimes, but is also a common response in disturbance regimes of high severity, those that destroy most or all above-ground biomass, and which occur at medium to high frequency. The response to disturbance either by resprouting or seeding is dictated by the site's productivity. We present a comprehensive model for relative allocation to resprouting vs seeding across a range of disturbance regimes. Competition between plants that mostly seed vs those that mostly resprout should accentuate differences in allocation along a gradient of disturbance frequency. However the patchy nature of disturbance in time and space, coupled with gene flow among populations undergoing different disturbance regimes, ensures that it is unlikely that either resprouting or seeding will be the sole response in most plant communities at most disturbance frequencies. Additional influences on resprouting in woody plant communities include changes in allocation during the lifespan of individual plants and phylogenetic constraints that are expressed as biogeographic patterns.