Fire dynamics distinguish grasslands, shrublands and woodlands as alternative attractors in the Central Great Plains of North America

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dc.contributor.author Ratajczak, Zak
dc.contributor.author Nippert, Jesse B.
dc.contributor.author Briggs, John M.
dc.contributor.author Blair, John M.
dc.date.accessioned 2015-05-05T19:37:32Z
dc.date.available 2015-05-05T19:37:32Z
dc.date.issued 2015-05-05
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2097/19193
dc.description.abstract This review synthesizes evidence that altered fire frequency drives discontinuous ecosystem transitions from mesic grasslands to shrublands or woodlands in the Central Great Plains, USA. Long-term fire manipulations reveal that grassland to shrubland transitions are triggered when fire-free intervals increase from 1–3 years to ≥ 3–8 years, and longer fire returns (~10 years or more) result in transitions to woodlands. Grazing and soil properties alter these fire thresholds. Grassland to shrubland transitions are abrupt and exhibit nonlinear relationships between driver and state variables. Transitions to shrublands and woodlands exhibit hysteresis, where reintroducing frequent fires does not reverse transitions in management-relevant time-scales (decades). Nonlinear transitions and hysteresis emerge because grasses generate positive feedbacks with fire that create strong demographic barriers for shrub and tree establishment. Fire-free intervals allow shrubs and trees to reach a size sufficient to survive fire, reproduce and disrupt the fire feedback loop through competition. Synthesis: Mesic grasslands, shrublands and woodlands constitute self-reinforcing states (alternative attractors) separated by critical fire frequency thresholds. Even without major shifts in climate, altered fire frequency can produce dramatic state changes, highlighting the importance of fire for predicting future ecosystem states. Local management should focus on prevention of unwanted transitions rather than post hoc restoration. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.relation.uri http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.12311/abstract en_US
dc.rights This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Ratajczak, Z., Nippert, J. B., Briggs, J. M., & Blair, J. M. (2014). Fire dynamics distinguish grasslands, shrublands and woodlands as alternative attractors in the Central Great Plains of North America. Journal of Ecology, 102(6), 1374-1385., which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.12311/abstract en_US
dc.subject Alternative stable states en_US
dc.subject Bi-stability en_US
dc.subject Bush encroachment en_US
dc.subject Tallgrass prairie en_US
dc.subject Woody encroachment en_US
dc.title Fire dynamics distinguish grasslands, shrublands and woodlands as alternative attractors in the Central Great Plains of North America en_US
dc.type Article (author version) en_US
dc.date.published 2014 en_US
dc.citation.doi doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12311 en_US
dc.citation.epage 1385 en_US
dc.citation.issue 6 en_US
dc.citation.jtitle Journal of Ecology en_US
dc.citation.spage 1374 en_US
dc.citation.volume 102 en_US
dc.contributor.authoreid nippert en_US
dc.contributor.authoreid jbriggs1 en_US
dc.contributor.authoreid jblair en_US


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