Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp 1317–1328 | Cite as

Understory vascular plant community assembly in relation to time-since-fire and environmental variables in a Chinese boreal forest

  • Bo Liu
  • Jian Yang
  • Jill F. Johnstone


Understanding the response of understory vegetation to fire disturbance is vital to biodiversity conservation and management of boreal forests. We surveyed understory vascular plant richness and composition, and measured related environmental variables along a toposequence within three successional stages, initial (3 years post-fire), early (13 years post-fire) and late (>100 years post-fire) successional stages. Using permutation multivariate ANOVA and nonmetric multidimensional scaling, we analyzed how understory species richness and composition change as time-since-fire proceeds, and their correlative relationships with environmental variables. Species richness and composition showed significant differences among the three successional stages. Understory species richness and abundance were significantly associated with time-since-fire, topographic position, elevation and organic layer depth. Among these variables, time-since-fire had the strongest effect and topographic position was the second major factor on affecting understory community assembly. In addition, time-since-fire overwhelmed the effects of soil pH in the initial successional stage and gravimetric soil moisture in early and late successional stages on understory species composition


Understory richness Composition Fire disturbance Succession Great Xing’an Mountains Ordination 


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This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 31270511, 41501200). The authors thank Huzhong Forestry Bureau and Huzhong Natural Reserve for the help in field investigations. We thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which helped us to improve the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Forestry, TP Cooper BuildingUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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