Limitations to propagule dispersal will constrain postfire recovery of plants and fungi in western coniferous forests.
Many forest species are adapted to long-interval, high-severity fires, but the intervals between severe fires are decreasing with changes in climate, land use, and biological invasions. Although the effects of changing fire regimes on some important recovery processes have previously been considered, the consequences for the dispersal of propagules (plant seeds and fungal spores) in forest communities have not. We characterize three mechanisms by which changing fire regimes disrupt propagule dispersal in mesic temperate, boreal, and high-elevation forests: reduced abundance and altered spatial distributions of propagule source populations, less effective dispersal of propagules by wind, and altered behavior of animal dispersers and propagule predators. We consider how disruptions to propagule dispersal may interact with other factors that are also influenced by fire regime change, potentially increasing risk of forest conversion. Finally, we highlight urgent research topics regarding how dispersal limitation may shape twenty-first century forest recovery after stand-replacing fire.