Diversity effects on many aspects of ecosystem function have been well documented. However, fire is an exception: fire experiments have mainly included single species, bulk litter, or vegetation, and, as such, the role of diversity as a determinant of flammability, a crucial aspect of ecosystem function, is poorly understood. This study is the first to experimentally test whether flammability characteristics of two-species mixtures are non-additive, i.e., differ from expected flammability based on the component species in monospecific fuel. In standardized fire experiments on ground fuels, including monospecific fuels and mixtures of five contrasting subarctic plant fuel types in a controlled laboratory environment, we measured flame speed, flame duration, and maximum temperature. Broadly half of the mixture combinations showed non-additive effects for these flammability indicators; these were mainly enhanced dominance effects for temporal dynamics - fire speed and duration. Fuel types with the more flammable value for a characteristic determined the rate of fire speed and duration of the whole mixture; in contrast, maximum temperature of the fire was determined by the biomass-weighted mean of the mixture. These results suggest that ecological invasions by highly flammable species may have effects on ground-fire dynamics well out of proportion to their biomass. © 2012 van Altena, van Logtestijn, Cornwell and Cornelissen.
van Altena, C., van Logtestijn, R. S. P., Cornwell, W. K., & Cornelissen, J. H. C. (2012). Species composition and fire: non-additive mixture effects on ground fuel flammability. Frontiers in Plant Science, 3, 1-10. . https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2012.00063