Bamboo, fire and flood: Consequences of disturbance for the vegetative growth of a clumping, clonal plant

Donald C. Franklin, Lynda D. Prior, Nicholas J. Hogarth, Clive R. McMahon

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15 Citations (Scopus)


The clumping growth form of tropical bamboos suggests a consolidator strategy in the face of intense competition rather than an ability to exploit disturbance. We investigated the annual growth and culm demographic responses to disturbance by fire and flood of vegetatively mature clumps of a riparian stand of Bambusa arnhemica. Linear-mixed models were employed to control for the non-independence of culm fates within clumps and clump growth among years. As the stand was monodominant and the species is gregariously monocarpic, responses can be interpreted independently of interspecific competition and trade-offs with sexual reproduction. Disturbance depressed clump growth but the culm demographic responses to fire and flood were quite different. Few culms were destroyed during the fire but damage depressed their subsequent survival, leading to declines in clump basal area. Fire also triggered the release of ramet buds, but the additional recruits were small and short-lived. Prolonged and early flooding in one of the study years depressed culm recruitment in clumps low on the lagoon bank but there was possible compensatory recruitment in the following year. There was no convincing evidence that sparse clumps recruited culms better than dense clumps, though culm recruitment was negatively correlated with culm survival. Fire and prolonged flooding are inevitable elements of the environment occupied by B. arnhemica, but we interpret the species' response as persisting in the face of disturbance rather than exploiting the opportunities created by it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-332
Number of pages14
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Generalised linear mixed models
  • Genets
  • Intraclonal competition
  • Northern Australia
  • Ramet demography
  • Size-dependent survival


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