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Vestergaard, P., Alstrup, V.: Recovery of Danish coastal dune vegetation after a wildfire. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 7: 117-128, 2001.


Abstract. The initial recovery of vegetation after a wildfire in a coastal dune area in NW Jutland, Denmark, was studied over a 5-yr period by means of permanent plots representing various dune communities along a topographical gradient. The impact of the fire varied with the position of the plots. Fens and south-facing dunes were little affected while dune heath plots were severely affected including loss of the O-horizon. Post-fire conditions included presence of remaining soil organic matter, a soil seed bank and surviving belowground plant parts. The soil surface remained stable during the study period. The initial five years of recovery comprised of an initial three-year recruitment phase during which cover and number of species increased and the quantitative species composition changed markedly, followed by two years of a declining rate of change. 38 species of vascular plants were recorded, 35 are regular components in dune, dune heath and heath fen and were recruited from the seed bank, from locally dispersed seeds  and/or by sprouting from surviving vegetative parts. The remaining three species were ‘aliens’, dispersed from sources outside the area. Crustose lichens had an important role in the initial recovery by stabilizing the surface and probably inhibiting seed germination, whereas mosses mostly had a subordinate role. The seral position of the plots, as well as the expected time needed for full recovery of pre-fire vegetation, vary with topography and initial soil conditions. Five years after the fire the fen and the south-facing dune probably need less than a decade for full recovery. The remaining plots are judged to be relatively early seral; their full recovery into mature dry or moist dune heath vegetation and O-horizon is expected to need several centuries.

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