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Flammability strategies

November 24th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

We live on a flammable planet [1,2] yet there is little consensus on the origin and evolution of flammability in our flora [3]. Part of the problem lies in the concept of flammability. In a recent paper [4] we suggest that flammability should not be viewed as a single quantitative trait or metric, rather we propose that flammability has three major dimensions that are not necessarily correlated: ignitability, heat release, and fire spread rate. These dimensions define three flammability strategies observed in fire-prone ecosystems: the non-flammable, the fast-flammable and the hot-flammable strategy (with low ignitability, high flame spread rate and high heat release, respectively). The non-flammable strategy refers to plants that do not burn (or rarely) in natural conditions despite living in fire-prone ecosystems: this is because they have biomass with very low ignitability (low flammability at the organ scale) or because their plant structure does not allow the ignition of the biomass (low flammability at the individual scale). The hot- and the fast-flammable strategies refer to flammable plants with contrasted heat release and spread rate. Flammability strategies increase the survival or reproduction under recurrent fires, and thus, plants in fire-prone ecosystems benefit from acquiring one of them; they represent different (alternative) ways to live under recurrent fires. This novel framework on different flammability strategies helps us to understand variability in flammability across scales [4].

 

flammability-strategies
Figure: Conceptual model describing the three plant flammability strategies in fire-prone ecosystems. While many plants fall at intermediate levels of these axes (i.e., the null model for flammability), plants in fire-prone ecosystems benefit from being at the extremes, forming the three flammability strategies considered here. From [4]

References
[1] The-fire-overview-effect, jgpausas.blogs.uv.es/2016/09/18/

[2]  A new global fire map, jgpausas.blogs.uv.es/2013/03/06/   [doi | pdf]

[3] Pausas J.G. & Moreira B. 2012. Flammability as a biological concept. New Phytol.  194: 610-613. [doi | wiley | pdf]

[4] Pausas J.G., Keeley J.E., Schwilk D.W. 2017. Flammability as an ecological and evolutionary driver. J. Ecol. 105: 289-297 [doi | wiley | pdf | brief for managers]
UPDATE: featured on the cover J Ecol 105(2): cover | blog

 

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