Fire Impacts on Recruitment Dynamics in a Seasonal Tropical Forest in Continental Southeast Asia
The effects of forest fires on tree recruitment dynamics in tropical forests is important for predicting forest dynamics and ecosystem function in Southeast Asia. To our knowledge, no studies have examined the effects of fire intensity on community-level recruitment patterns in tropical forests due to the rarity of long-term observation datasets in fire-impacted tropical forests and the difficulty of quantifying fire intensity. We addressed two questions: (1) is tree recruitment among species affected by fire intensity? and if so, (2) are there specific plant functional traits associated with these responses? We used data from a long-term forest dynamics plot at the Huai Kha Khaeng (HKK) Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand. The HKK plot occurs in a strongly seasonal tropical environment and has experienced several fires since its establishment in 1994. We found 46 tree species (52% of the 89 species analysed) showed evidence of reduced recruitment rates with increasing fire intensities during the most recent fire in 2005. Tree species in this flammable landscape have various leaf and wood functional traits associated with fire. Spatial and temporal variability in fire activity may lead to alterations in long-term taxonomic and functional composition of the forest due to selection on fire-related traits.