Evolutionary ecology of resprouting and seeding in fire-prone ecosystems



There are two broad mechanisms by which plant populations persist under recurrent disturbances: resprouting from surviving tissues, and seedling recruitment. Species can have one of these mechanisms or both. However, a coherent framework explaining the differential evolutionary pressures driving these regeneration mechanisms is lacking. We propose a bottom-up approach in addressing this question that considers the relative survivorship of adults and juveniles in an evolutionary context, based on two assumptions. First, resprouting and seeding can be interpreted by analogy with annual versus perennial life histories; that is, if we consider disturbance cycles to be analogous to annual cycles, then resprouting species are analogous to the perennial life history with iteroparous reproduction, and obligate seeding species that survive disturbances solely through seed banks are analogous to the annual life history with semelparous reproduction. Secondly, changes in the selective regimes differentially modify the survival rates of adults and juveniles and thus the relative costs and benefits of resprouting versus seeding. Our approach provides a framework for understanding temporal and spatial variation in resprouting and seeding under crown-fire regimes. It accounts for patterns of coexistence and environmental changes that contribute to the evolution of seeding from resprouting ancestors.