An emerging hypothesis in fire ecology is that pyrodiversity increases species diversity. We test whether pyrodiversity—defined as the standard deviation of fire severity—increases avian biodiversity at two spatial scales, and whether and how this relationship may change in the decade following fire. We use a dynamic Bayesian community model applied to a multi-year dataset of bird surveys at 1106 points sampled across 97 fires in montane California. Our results provide strong support for a positive relationship between pyrodiversity and bird diversity. This relationship interacts with time since fire, with pyrodiversity having a greater effect on biodiversity at 10 years post-fire than at 1 year post-fire. Immediately after fires, patches of differing burn severities hold similar bird communities, but over the ensuing decade, bird assemblages within patches of contrasting severities differentiate. When evaluated at the scale of individual fires, fires with a greater heterogeneity of burn severities hold substantially more species. High spatial heterogeneity in severity, sometimes called ‘mixed-severity fire', is a natural part of wildfire regimes in western North America, but may be jeopardized by climate change and a legacy of fire suppression. Forest management that encourages mixed-severity fire may be critical for sustaining biodiversity across fire-prone landscapes.
- Received July 29, 2016.
- Accepted September 12, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.