The effect of heat and smoke on the emergence of exotic and native seedlings in a Mediterranean fire-free matorral of central Chile.
We studied the effect of heat shock and wood-fueled smoke on the emergence of native and exotic plant species in soil samples obtained in an evergreen matorral of central Chile that has been free of fire for decades. It is located on the eastern foothills of the Andes Range in San Carlos de Apoquindo. Immediately after collection samples were dried and stored under laboratory conditions. For each two transect, ten samples were randomly chosen, and one of the following treatments was applied: (1) heat-shock treatment, (2) plant-produced smoke treatment, (3) combined heat-and-smoke treatment, and (4) control, corresponding to samples not subjected to treatment. Twenty-seven species, representing 13 families, emerged from the soil samples. The most abundant families were Asteraceae and Poaceae. All of the emerged species were herbaceous, and 18 species were exotic. Respect to general hypothesis, there is no evidence for the proposition that fire-free matorral has lower proportion of exotic and native species with fire-related cues than matorral with fires. Among the exotic and native, the mean number of species that emerged from soil samples did not change significantly with respect to the control for any of the treatments applied. Nevertheless, important species-specific responses were observed. Smoke and heat-smoke combination significantly increased the emergence of the exotic species Anthriscus caucalis. While smoke-related cues significantly increased the emergence of the exotic species Avena barbata, the emergence of the exotic Aphanes arvensis and the native Bromus berteroanus decreases. For several species our results showed inconsistent responses to fire-related cues compared to those reported in the literature. We suggest that these differences might be related with the fire-history in the populations, an important issue poorly acknowledge in the literature.