Community dynamics in relation to management of heathland vegetation in Scotland

C. H. Gimingham, R. J. Hobbs, A. U. Mallik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The paper describes studies of post-fire succession in heathland vegetation in N.E. Scotland, dominated by Calluna vulgaris. A preliminary model (Legg, 1978) suggested good agreement between simulation of succession on the basis of a Markov chain and observations of stands at different stages of development after burning, at least in the earlier stages. Vegetation transitions are currently being recorded in permanent plots on burnt areas. First results confirm the view that (a) the post-fire succession has the properties of a Markov process, (b) this type of model remains valid when constructed from records of actual transitions, rather than data obtained by inference from evidence of transition. Comparing successional events in stands where, at the time of burning, the Calluna population was in pioneer-, building-, mature-and degenerate phases, shows that transition matrices generally agree with the Markov hypothesis, but not in the case of stands where Calluna was degenerate when burnt. The composition of establishing vegetation 1 year after fire is not confined to species normally associated with the early stages of succession, but reflects the composition of the stand before burning. Redevelopment after fire is described in terms of an initial floristic composition of species with strategies permitting early re-establishment, selected by the recurrence of the fire factor. Subsequent transitions represent changes in their relative abundance due to differing growth properties and competitive interactions. This interpretation applies only under conditions of recurrent incidence of fire (normally once in 10-15 yr). If fire does not recur, Calluna stands pass into the degenerate phase, where changes in the nature of relay floristics may come into play (e.g. with tree colonization).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-155
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1981
Externally publishedYes


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