Does disturbance affect bud bank size and belowground structures diversity in Brazilian subtropical grasslands?
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Brazilian Campos grasslands are ecosystems under high frequency of disturbance by grazing and fires. Absence of such disturbances may lead to shrub encroachment and loss of plant diversity. Vegetation regeneration after disturbance in these grasslands occurs mostly by resprouting from belowground structures. We analyzed the importance of bud bank and belowground bud bearing organs in Campos grasslands. We hypothesize that the longer the intervals between disturbances are, the smaller the size of the bud bank is. Additionally, diversity and frequency of belowground organs should also decrease in areas without disturbance for many years. We sampled 20 soil cores from areas under different types of disturbance: grazed, exclusion from disturbance for two, six, 15 and 30 years. Belowground biomass was sorted for different growth forms and types of bud bearing organs. We found a decrease in bud bank size with longer disturbance intervals. Forbs showed the most drastic decrease in bud bank size in the absence of disturbance, which indicates that they are very sensitive to changes in disturbance regimes. Xylopodia (woody gemmiferous belowground organs with hypocotyl-root origin) were typical for areas under influence of recurrent fires. The diversity of belowground bud bearing structures decreased in the absence of disturbance. Longer intervals between disturbance events, resulting in decrease of bud bank size and heterogeneity of belowground organs may lead to the decline and even disappearance of species that relay on resprouting from the bud bank upon disturbance. (C) 2014 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.