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Towards understanding resprouting at the global scale

November 10, 2015

Understanding and predicting plant response to disturbance is of paramount importance in our changing world. Resprouting ability is often considered a simple qualitative trait and used in many ecological studies. Our aim is to show some of the complexities of resprouting while highlighting cautions that need be taken in using resprouting ability to predict vegetation responses across disturbance types and biomes. There are marked differences in resprouting depending on the disturbance type, and fire is often the most severe disturbance because it includes both defoliation and lethal temperatures. In the Mediterranean biome, there are differences in functional strategies to cope with water deficit between resprouters (dehydration avoiders) and nonresprouters (dehydration tolerators); however, there is little research to unambiguously extrapolate these results to other biomes. Furthermore, predictions of vegetation responses to changes in disturbance regimes require consideration not only of resprouting, but also other relevant traits (e.g. seeding, bark thickness) and the different correlations among traits observed in different biomes; models lacking these details would behave poorly at the global scale. Overall, the lessons learned from a given disturbance regime and biome (e.g. crown-fire Mediterranean ecosystems) can guide research in other ecosystems but should not be extrapolated at the global scale.