Resprouting as a response to disturbance is now widely recognized as a key functional trait among woody plants and as the basis for the persistence niche. However, the underlying mechanisms that define resprouting responses to disturbance are poorly conceptualized. Resprouting ability is constrained by the interaction of the disturbance regime that depletes the buds and resources needed to fund resprouting, and the environment that drives growth and resource allocation. We develop a buds-protection-resources (BPR) framework for understanding resprouting in fire-prone ecosystems, based on bud bank location, bud protection, and how buds are resourced. Using this framework we go beyond earlier emphases on basal resprouting and highlight the importance of apical, epicormic and below-ground resprouting to the persistence niche. The BPR framework provides insights into: resprouting typologies that include both fire resisters (i.e. survive fire but do not resprout) and fire resprouters; the methods by which buds escape fire effects, such as thick bark; and the predictability of community assembly of resprouting types in relation to site productivity, disturbance regime and competition. Furthermore, predicting the consequences of global change is enhanced by the BPR framework because it potentially forecasts the retention or loss of above-ground biomass. � 2012 New Phytologist Trust.