Post-fire Peatland Vegetation Recovery: A Case Study in Open Rich Fens of the Canadian Boreal Forest

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Mélina Guêné Nanchen
Marie-Claire LeBlanc
Line Rochefort
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Fire plays a major role in structuring and the functioning of boreal ecosystems. As peatlands are important components of boreal forests, the impact of fire upon these wetter ecosystems is increasingly studied, but with the main focus on treed peatlands and Sphagnum-dominated bogs so far. Important fires occurring more frequently in the past decade in southern Northwest Territories (Canada) provide the opportunity to assess early post-fire vegetation regeneration in open rich fens (1, 2 and 5-years post-fire) and to better understand early recovery succession. We aimed to 1) evaluate whether and how open rich fens are affected by fire 2) describe short-term vegetation regeneration, for both bryophytes and vascular species. A shift was observed between pioneer bryophytes and brown mosses between the second and fifth-year post-fire. Vascular plants, especially slow-growing species and the ones reproducing mainly by seeds, recovered partially. The first bryophyte species recovering were pioneer species adapted to colonize burned environment such as Marchantia polymorpha or Ceratodon purpureus. For vascular plant species, the ones previously present and capable to regrowth rapidly from unburned plant structures (base of tussocks, rhizomes, roots) were represented by species like Betula glandulosa or Carex aquatilis. The wetter conditions and lower fuel availability of fen depressional biotopes were important factors controlling the resistance and regeneration of species associated with them.