Although chronically low soil fertility is widely recognized as an important selection pressure on carnivorous plants, the effects of other potentially important selection pressures, such as natural disturbances, have largely been ignored. In this study, I examined the effects of fire and removal of live plants and litter on seedling establishment of Drosera capillaris (pink sundew), a small insectivorous plant common to wet, nutrient-poor pine savannas of the southeastern United States. I also examined the effects of soil disturbances associated with crayfish burrows on mortality. Fires occurring during the winter of 1996/1997 increased the density, growth and establishment of seedlings during the growing season of 1997. In addition to fires, local removal of established plants and their associated litter greatly increased seedling density and growth within savannas. The proportion of rosettes that flowered at sites not burned recently (>1 year before) was nearly twice that at sites burned more recently (<1 year before; 0.183 vs. 0.107, respectively). Between May and August of 1997, mortality of sundews at recently-burned sites resulted in nearly equivalent densities at all sites by August 1997. Most of this mortality was caused by burial by shifting sediment associated with erosion of crayfish chimneys, rather than by competition from resprouting vegetation. Smaller rosettes were disproportionately buried by sediment and killed. These results suggest that frequent burial of sundews, with its disproportionate effects on juvenile mortality, selects for rapid growth and establishment. I hypothesize that fire and carnivory permit rapid growth of juveniles and facilitate establishment of sundews in nutrient-poor wet savannas.
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Vol. 141 • No. 1