Canopy cover type, and not fine-scale resource availability, explains native and exotic species richness in a landscape affected by anthropogenic fires and posterior land-use change.
Anthropogenic fires and land-use change, including the conversion from native to exotic species canopies, are two major types of disturbances that strongly affect the functioning of forest ecosystems around the world. These disturbances alter the resource availability for plants, which may lead to changes in species richness. Here we examined the relative effects of canopy cover type, light availability and soil nutrient (N and P) availability on species richness, including invasive species, at different post-fire plant systems. Additionally, we tested the resource heterogeneity hypothesis (RHH) for plant diversity, which proposes that diversity is higher in habitats with spatially heterogeneous resources. We evaluated four different canopy cover types, including mature and second-growth Nothofagus pumilio forests, treeless prairie, Pinus sylvestris afforestations, all of which were converted from mature N. pumilio forests. Using generalized mixed-effects model correlations, we determined (1) the relative influence of canopy cover type, light and soil nutrient availability on understory species richness and (2) the relationship between species richness and resource heterogeneity. We found that canopy cover type was the factor that best explained species richness, much more than fine-scale light and soil nutrient availability. Additionally, we found that the more homogeneous the light environment the higher the number of exotic species (mainly found in the prairie where the highest light intensity occurred), which is contrary to what the RHH states. In conclusion, canopy cover type, a stand-scale driver, and not fine-scale resource (light, N and P) availability, was most important for explaining native and exotic (including invasive) species understory richness in a landscape affected by anthropogenic fires and posterior land-use change.