Field observations using chronosequences are helpful to study vegetation succession. This method allows to establish comparisons based on soil composition, stand structure, micro- and macrofossil remains from sites of different ages but on similar edaphic and topographic conditions. In the boreal forest, post-fire succession through time is triggered by climate, disturbance history (insect epidemics, fire and logging), latitude and altitude. The main objective of this research is to identify the main patterns of early post-fire succession, including similarities and differences in vegetation composition and attributes, of three contrasted ecosystems distributed along an altitudinal gradient. To do so, we have monitored the successional development of the alpine, subalpine and boreal lichen-woodland sites during the first 21 years (1991 to 2011) of post-fire sequence in eastern Canada 1991 to 2011. Each site was characterized by a different functional group that became established following fire. A rapid resurgence of ericaceous shrubs and lichens was observed in the lichen woodland and subalpine sites. Bryophyte and lichen species were not an important component of vegetation communities during the earlier stages of post-fire succession. For all three sites monitored, lichens were the last functional group to establish in the chronosequences. Herbs and mosses characterized the post-fire succession in alpine areas, the latter functional group established late in the chronosequence to cover >25% of the site after 15 years. Post-fire chronosequences in the three contrasted environments indicate that plant succession is a repetitive process often involving similar resilient plant assemblages.
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