Posts Tagged ‘fire regime’

Fire and diversity

May 26th, 2017 1 comment

In a recent paper [1], we studied the relationship between plant diversity (Fig. 1a) and fire activity (Fig. 1b) for the different ecoregions of the world, and found a strong positive relationship (Fig. 2), even after taking into account productivity and other major environmental variables [1]. This is the first global assessment of the importance of fire as major determinant of species diversity. There are at least two (not mutually exclusive) mechanisms by which fire may drive plant diversity at the scale and grain considered. 1) A selective process; there is both micro and macro evolutionary evidence suggesting that fire regime can drive population divergence and diversification [2-5]. And 2) Fires generate landscape mosaics and thus more habitat types and more niches likely to be filled by different species. In fact, the two processes are linked as landscape mosaics are also appropriate frameworks for population divergences and selective processes in fire-prone ecosystems [6]. That is, our results suggest that fire generates the appropriate conditions for a large variety of plants in many regions worldwide. Or, in other words, a world without fires (if possible at all) would be less diverse.


Fig. 1. Maps of plant diversity (logarithm of the number of species divided by the ecoregion area) and fire activity (estimated by 15 years of remote sensing data for each ecoregions, standardized from 0 to 1) for each terrestrial ecoregion of the world. From [1].

Fig. 2. Plant diversity in each terrestrial ecoregion (number of species divided by area, log scale; Fig. 1a) plotted against an indicator of fire activity (Fig. 1b); the two lines refer to fitted lines for low and high radiative power (an indicator of fire intensity). Form [1].


[1] Pausas J.G. & Ribeiro E. 2017. Fire and plant diversity at the global scale. Global Ecol. & Biogeogr. [doi | pdf | data & maps (figshare)]

[2] He T, Pausas JG, Belcher CM, Schwilk DW, Lamont BB. 2012. Fire-adapted traits of Pinus arose in the fiery Cretaceous. New Phytol. 194: 751-759. [doi | wiley | pdf | suppl.]

[3] Pausas J.G., Alessio G., Moreira B. & Corcobado G. 2012. Fires enhance flammability in Ulex parviflorus. New Phytol. 193: 18-23. [doi | wiley | pdf]

[4] Hernández-Serrano A., Verdú M., González-Martínez S.C., Pausas J.G. 2013. Fire structures pine serotiny at different scales. Am. J. Bot. 100: 2349-2356. [doi | amjbot | pdf | supp.]

[5] Pausas, J.G. 2015. Evolutionary fire ecology: lessons learned from pines. Trends Plant Sci. 20: 318-324. [doi | sciencedirect | cell | pdf]

[6] Castellanos, M.C., González-Martínez, S. & Pausas, J.G. 2015. Field heritability of a plant adaptation to fire in heterogeneous landscapes. Mol. Ecol. 24, 5633-5642. [doi | pdf | suppl.]  



The ecology of bark thickness (2): another twist

December 3rd, 2016 No comments

Sometime ago we proposed that “at the global scale, a significant proportion of the variability in bark thickness is explained by the variability in fire regimes”, and specifically predicted that frequent low intensity fires select for thick bark [1]. In addition, we suggested that differentiating between inner and outer bark thickness would help to better understand the functional role of bark, especially in non-fire prone ecosystems. The paucity of available data at a global scale limited an empirical demonstration of the proposed framework.

A recent paper has now provided evidence for the fire hypothesis of bark thickness at a global scale [2, 3]. Specifically, Rosell [2] regressed bark thickness against fire frequency and climate parameters and showed that the most sensitive part of the bark in relation to fire was the outer bark, while the inner bark was quite variable and slightly related to both fire and climate [2]. In the early paper [1] we also mentioned that little was known about the role of bark thickness in arid ecosystems. Recent research support the role of bark as a fire protection mechanisms in some arid ecosystems [4, 5].

To advance in the relationship between bark thickness and fire, it is necessarily to consider not only fire frequency, but also fire intensity, and to scale these fire characteristics with plant life-histories ([3], see figure below). This is because the relationship between fire regime and bark thickness is not expected to be simple and linear, but a bit more complex, including some threshold-type relationships (figure below).

Little by little we are improving our understanding on the role of bark as a fire-protection mechanism, and how fire regimes has shaped bark thickness in many ecosystems.


Figure: Bark thickness as a function of fire regime: flame height (an indicator of fire intensity) and mean fire return interval (fire frequency). Fire regime is scaled by the characteristics of the plant (height to the base of the crown and longevity, respectively). The shaded area represents the areas where thick bark is adaptive for fire protection, i.e., when return intervals are shorter than the lifespan of the plant and fires are of low intensity (flame height is shorter than the distance to the base of the crown, e.g., surface fires); the shade area is limited thresholds (values of 1 in the axes). The unshaded area represents the conditions where thick barks are not adaptive (thin bark is more likely), i.e., when fires are crown-fires or when the return interval is long (in relation to the longevity of the plant). From [3].


[1] Pausas, J.G. 2015. Bark thickness and fire regime. Functional Ecology 29:317-327. [doi | pdf | suppl. | blog]

[2] Rosell J.A. 2016. Bark thickness across the angiosperms: more than just fire. New Phytologist 211: 90–102

[3 ] Pausas J.G. 2017. Bark thickness and fire regime: another twist. New Phytologist 213: 13-15. [doi| pdf] <- New!

[4] Schubert, A. T., Nano, C. E. M., Clarke, P. J. & Lawes, M. J. 2016. Evidence for bark thickness as a fire-resistance trait from desert to savanna in fire-prone inland Australia. Plant Ecol. 217: 683-696.

[5] Cousins, S. R., Witkowski, E. T. F. & Pfab, M. F. 2016. Beating the blaze: Fire survival in the fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis), a succulent monocotyledonous tree endemic to the Cape fynbos, South Africa. Austral Ecol. 41:466-479.

Disturbance maintains alternative biome states

November 9th, 2015 No comments

It is becoming more and more evident that climate alone does not explain spatial and temporal patterns of the world vegetation, and that disturbance regimes explain an important part of the variability in vegetation and biome composition and distribution [1]. This has been suggested specially in tropical ecosystems where alternative vegetation states (e.g., forests and savannas) are possible for a given climatic conditions [2]. For instance, in dry years, surface fires may enter in forests and kill fire-sensitive trees and select for fire-resistant woody species with open crown architectures that generates well lit communities with a flammable grassy understory. Forest trees and savannas trees have a marked difference in bark thickness (thinner in the former) and thus a contrasted sensitivity to surface fires [3]. Thus, a switch to a forest state from a savanna depends on a sufficiently long fire interval or high resource availability allowing the outcompetition of shade-intolerant savanna trees and grasses (i.e. the inhibition of fires) by means of a closed canopy of forest trees. Similarly, herbivory can also exert a control on woody biomass and favour herbivory-resistant shrubs and grasses. However, empirical (field-based) evidence for alternative sates were very limited. In a recent paper [4] we used field data to show that, for a wide range of environmental conditions (in South America and Africa), fire feedbacks maintain savannas and forests as alternative biome states in both the Neotropics and the Afrotropics. In addition, wooded grasslands and savannas occurred as alternative states in the Afrotropics, depending on the relative importance of fire and herbivory feedbacks. That is, we found evidence for a disturbance-driven bistability in the Neotropics and a disturbance-driven tristability in Afrotropics (figure below).


Fig. Top: Frequency distribution of basal area in afrotropical (tristability) and neotropical (bistability) ecosystems. Bottom: The discontinuous pattern of basal area along the resources gradient for both afrotropical and neotropical ecosystems (red: wooded grasslands; orange: savannas; green: forests). Note that there are regions of the gradient where two alternative vegetation types are possible; they are maintained by different disturbance regime (see [4]).

[1] Pausas, J.G. 2015. Alternative fire-driven vegetation states. J. Veget. Sci. 26: 4-6. [doi | pdf | suppl.]

[2] Dantas V., Batalha MA & Pausas JG. 2013. Fire drives functional thresholds on the savanna-forest transition. Ecology 94:2454-2463. [doi | pdf | appendix]

[3] Pausas, J.G. 2015. Bark thickness and fire regime. Funct. Ecol. 29: 317-327. [doi | pdf | suppl.]

[4] Dantas V.L., Hirota M., Oliveira R.S., Pausas J.G. 2016. Disturbance maintains alternative biome states. Ecology Letters 19:12-19 [doi | wiley | pdf |supp.– New!


Ecology and evolution in fire-prone ecosystems

February 28th, 2015 2 comments

During the last years I’ve been working in many topics related to fire ecology and plant evolution in ecosystems subject to recurrent fires (mainly mediterranean and savanna ecosystems). Because I believe knowledge should be spread around easily, I make my results available to the public in my web page (see publications list) and in this blog. However, having the cumulative list of paper published each year is not very convenient for people searching for a specific topic. For this reason, I’m rearranging most of my articles by topics as follows:

1. Fire history
2. Fire regime: climate & fuel
3. Fire traits (resprouting, postfire germination, serotiny, bark thickness, flammability, data & methods)
4. Fire & plant strategies (in Mediterranean ecosystems, in pines, in savannas, community assembly)
5. Fire & evolution
6. Some fire-adapted species (Pinus halepensis, Quercus suber, Ulex parviflorus)
7. Fire & vegetation modelling
8. Plant-animal interactions
9. Restoration & conservation

See: fire-ecology-evolution.html

Some papers may be repeated if they clearly fit in more than one topic; some papers, mainly old ones, do not fit well in any of these topics and have not been included (at least at the moment), they still can be found in the section of publications sorted by year. I’m still working on this rearrangement, so some modifications are possible; and any comment is welcome.
I hope this is useful for somebody!

Publications: by year | by topic | books


The ecology of bark thickness

December 1st, 2014 No comments

Bark is a vital and very visible part of woody plants, yet the functional and evolutionary ecology of the bark is still poorly understood. In a recent article I have studied one of the bark properties: bark thickness [1]. Bark thickness is very variable among woody plants and fire is a key factor selecting for a thick bark. This is because barks are very good heat insulators and under low intensity fires, small differences in bark thickness provides a great increase in the stem protection and survival. Consequently, at the global scale, an important proportion of the variability in bark thickness should be explained by the variability in fire regimes. In this paper I provide evidences supporting the role of fire regime in shaping bark thickness (in conjunction with other plant traits) on a global scale [1].

Forest environments with very frequent (and low intensity) understory fires select for trees with thick bark at the base of the bole. In some savannas, trees do not have specially thick barks as they tend to growth quickly to escape the height affected by grass fires. Savannas living in poor soils may not be able to growth quickly and thus trees can only survive if they have a very thick bark in the whole plant (including in the thin branches). In Mediterranean ecosystems, fires are less frequent than in savannas, and there is time for the accumulation of fine woody biomass. Consequently, fires burns intensely (crown fires) and thus small differences in bark thickness do not increase stem survival; in such conditions, most species have relatively thin barks. In wet tropical forests, tree barks are very thin because fire are very rare and thus a thick bark is not advantageous. In very arid ecosystems, fuels are too sparse for fire spread, and thus the observed variability in bark thickness is related to other factors like a response to water stress. In conclusion, fire regimes can explain a large proportion of the variability of bark thickness at the global scale, and thus this trait varies across ecosystems in a predictable manner.


Figure: Examples of trees with thick bark: A. Myrcia bella (Myrtaceae, Brazil); B. Quercus suber (Fagaceae, Mediterranean Basin), in the cover of the book ‘Cork oak Woodlands on the Edge’ [2]; C: Eremanthus seidelii (Asteraceae, Brazil); and D: Enterolobium gummiferum (Fabaceae), small top branch. Photos from [1] and [2].


[1] Pausas, J.G. 2015. Bark thickness and fire regime. Functional Ecology   [doi | pdf | suppl.]

[2] Aronson J., Pereira J.S., Pausas J.G. (eds). 2009. Cork Oak Woodlands on the Edge: conservation, adaptive management, and restoration. Island Press, Washington DC. 315 pp. [The book]

Alternative fire-driven vegetation states

November 1st, 2014 No comments

One of the clearest pieces of evidence for the role of fire in shaping vegetation is the occurrence of alternative vegetation types maintained by different fire regimes in a given climate. The different flammability of alternative communities generates different fire feedback processes that maintain contrasted vegetation types with clear boundaries in a given environment; and fire exclusion blurs this structure. This has been well documented in tropical landscapes (e.g., [1]) that are often mosaics of two alternative stable states – savannas and forests – with distinct structures and functions and sharp boundaries. Currently, there is an increasing evidence that alternative fire-driven vegetation states do occur in other environments, including temperate forests ([2, 3] and figure below). That is, the existence of alternative fire-driven vegetation states may be more frequent than previously thought, although human activities may favour one of the states and mask the original bistability.


Figure: Factors determining the transition between two alternative vegetation states (fire sensitive forest and fire resilient shrubland) in a temperate landscape in Patagonia. Human factors (global warming, increased ignitions, and livestock grazing) favour transition to shrublands. From [2].

[1] Dantas V., Batalha MA & Pausas JG. 2013. Fire drives functional thresholds on the savanna-forest transition. Ecology 94:2454-2463.  [doi | pdf | appendix]

[2] Pausas, J.G. 2015. Alternative fire-driven vegetation states. Journal of Vegetation Science 26: 4-6 [doi | pdf | suppl.]

[3] Paritsis J., Veblen T.T. & Holz A. 2014. Positive fire feedbacks contribute to shifts from Nothofagus pumilio forests to fire-prone shrublands in Patagonia. J. Veget. Sci., 26.


Evolutionary ecology of resprouting and seeding

July 15th, 2014 No comments

There are two broad mechanisms by which plant populations persist under recurrent fires: resprouting from surviving tissues, and seedling recruitment [1]. Species that live in fire-prone ecosystems can have one of these mechanisms or both [1]. In a recent review paper [2], we propose a model suggesting that changes in evolutionary pressures that modify adult (P) and juvenile (C) survival in postfire conditions (Fig. 1 below) determine the long-term success of each of the two regeneration mechanisms, and thus the postfire regeneration strategy: obligate resprouters, facultative species and obligate seeders (Fig. 2). Specifically we propose the following three hypotheses: 1) resprouting appeared early in plant evolution as a response to disturbance, and fire was an important driver in many lineages; 2) postfire seeding evolved under conditions where fires were predictable within the life span of the dominant plants and created conditions unfavorable for resprouting; and 3) the intensification of conditions favoring juvenile survival (C) and adult mortality (P) drove the loss of resprouting ability with the consequence of obligate-seeding species becoming entirely dependent on fire to complete their life cycle, with one generation per fire interval (monopyric life cyle). This approach provides a framework for understanding temporal and spatial variation in resprouting and seeding under crown-fire regimes. It accounts for patterns of coexistence and environmental changes that contribute to the evolution of seeding from resprouting ancestors. In this review, we also provide definitions and details of the main concepts used in evolutionary fire ecology: postfire regeneration traits, postfire strategies, life cycle in relation to fire, fire regimes (Box 1), costs of resprouting (Box 2), postfire seeding mechanisms (Box 3), and the possible evolutionary transitions (Box 4).


Fig. 1 : Main factors affecting adult and offspring seedling survival (P and C, respectively), and thus the P/C ratio, in fire-prone ecosystems (from Pausas & Keeley 2014 [2]).



Fig. 2: The changes in the probability of resprouting along an adult-to-offspring survival (P/C) gradient are not linear but show two turning points related to the acquisition of key innovations: the capacity to store a fire-resistant seed bank (postfire seeding), and the loss of resprouting capacity. Changes in P/C ratio may be produced by different drivers (Fig. 1) which drove the rise of innovations during evolution, e.g., during the increasing aridity from the Tertiary to the Quaternary (from Pausas & Keeley 2014 [2]).



[1] Pausas, J.G., Bradstock, R.A., Keith, D.A., Keeley, J.E. 2004. Plant functional traits in relation to fire in crown-fire ecosystems. Ecology 85: 1085-1100. [doi | pdf | esa | jstor]

[2] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E. 2014. Evolutionary ecology of resprouting and seeding in fire-prone ecosystems. New Phytologist 204: 55-65 [doi | wiley | pdf]


Climate-independent fire regime changes

May 16th, 2014 No comments

It is well-known that fire regimes are strongly linked to climate, however, there are examples in which most variability in fire regime changes are better attributed to drivers other than climate. For instance, vegetation (fuel structure and continuity) also plays a role in shaping fire regimes [1-5]. In a recent paper [6], we reviewed evidences from different environmental and temporal settings of abupt fire regimes changes that are not directly attributed to climatic changes, but to changes driven by (i) fauna, (ii) invasive plant species, and (iii) socio-economic and policy changes. All these drivers might generate nonlinear effects of landscape changes in fuel structure; that is, they generate fuel changes that can cross thresholds of landscape continuity and thus drastically change fire activity (figure below). The importance of climate-independent factors in abrupt fire regime changes can be viewed positively: while climate is very difficult to modify at short term, fuels can potentially be managed to shape fire regimes and to mitigate the effects of global warming [7]. However the success of these actions may be diverse, depending on the historical fire regimes and the adaptive traits of the species in the community [8].


Figure: Schematic representation of how a gradual change in a driver (e.g., a constant colonization or invasion of a flammable plant) can produce an abrupt change in landscape structure (e.g., continuity of the flammable vegetation). The bottom panel represents the changes through time in mean and maximum patch size in an idealized landscape that is invaded by plants (green cells) with a constant probability (p= 0.01 in each time step). The upper panel shows three snapshots of these dynamics (time steps = 25, 75 and 125, also represented by vertical lines in the bottom panel). From Pausas & Keeley [6].


[1] Pausas, J.G. 2004. Changes in fire and climate in the eastern Iberian Peninsula (Mediterranean basin). Climatic Change 63: 337-350. [pdf | doi]

[2] Pausas J.G. & Bradstock R.A. 2007. Fire persistence traits of plants along a productivity and disturbance gradient in Mediterranean shrublands of SE Australia. Global Ecology & Biogeography 16: 330-340.  [pdf | doi]

[3] Pausas J.G. & Paula S. 2012. Fuel shapes the fire-climate relationship: evidence from Mediterranean ecosystems. Global Ecol. & Biogeogr. 21: 1074-1082.  [doi | pdf | supp]

[4] Pausas J.G. & Fernández-Muñoz S. 2012. Fire regime changes in the Western Mediterranean Basin: from fuel-limited to drought-driven fire regime. Climatic Change 110: 215-226.  [doi | springer | pdf]

[5] Pausas J.G. & Ribeiro E. 2013. The global fire-productivity relationship. Global Ecol. & Biogeogr. 22: 728-736. [doi | pdf | appendix]

[6] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E., 2014. Abrupt climate-independent fire regime changes. Ecosystems 17: 1109.1120 [doi | pdf] – New!

[7] Towards prescribed fires,, 7 Oct 2013.

[8] Keeley J.E., Pausas J.G., Rundel P.W., Bond W.J., Bradstock R.A. 2011. Fire as an evolutionary pressure shaping plant traits. Trends in Plant Science 16(8): 406-411. [doi | trends | pdf]


Fire drives trait divergence: smoke-induced germination

April 3rd, 2014 No comments

There is an increasing evidence that recurrent fires are driving within species phenotypic variability, and that different fire regimes can generate trait divergence among populations [1]. For instance, populations of the annual species Helenium aromaticum (Asteraceae) growing under different fire histories in Chile have different seed traits in such a way that the anthropogenic increase in fire frequency selected for an increasing in seed pubescence [2]. In the Mediterranean Basin there is also evidence of phenotypic divergence among populations under different fire regimes: Ulex parviflorus (Fabaceae) plants living under high fire frequency are more flammable than those growing in sites that have not suffered fires [3-5]; Pinus halepensis and P. pinaster living under high crown-fire frequency have higher serotiny that those living in areas that rarely burn in crown fires [6]

A recent paper add further examples of this fire-driven trait divergence: Vandvik et al. show that smoke-induced germination is observed in populations of Calluna vulgaris (Ericaceae) from traditionally burnt coastal heathlands of Norway but it is lacking in populations from other habitats with infrequent fires [7]. The results are also consistent with the suggestion that smoke-induced germination is a fire adaptation [8-9].


Figure: Probability of germination of Calluna vulgaris in relation to time (days) since sowing for smoke-treated (pink) and control (grey) seeds, in coastal and inland heathlands of Norway. From Vandvik et al. 2014 [7].


[1] Pausas, J. G. and D. W. Schwilk. 2012. Fire and plant evolution. New Phytologist 193 (2). [doi | pdf | blog]

[2] Gómez-González S, Torres-Díaz C, Bustos-Schindler C, Gianoli E, 2011. Anthropogenic fire drives the evolution of seed traits. PNAS 108: 18743-18747. [doi blog]

[3] Pausas J.G., Alessio G., Moreira B. & Corcobado G. 2012. Fires enhance flammability in Ulex parviflorusNew Phytologist 193: 18-23. [doi | pdf | blog]

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

[5] Moreira B., Castellanos M.C., Pausas J.G. 2014. Genetic component of flammability variation in a Mediterranean shrub. Molecular Ecology 23: 1213-1223. [doi | pdf | suppl. | data:dryad | blog]

[6] Hernández-Serrano A., Verdú M., González-Martínez S.C., Pausas J.G. 2013. Fire structures pine serotiny at different scales. American Journal of Botany 100 (12): 2349-2356. [doi | amjbot | pdf | supp. | blog]

[7] Vandvik, V., J. P. Töpper, Z. Cook, M. I. Daws, E. Heegaard, I. E. Måren, and L. G. Velle. 2014. Management-driven evolution in a domesticated ecosystem. Biology Letters 10 (2): 20131082. [doi]

[8] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E. 2009. A burning story: The role of fire in the history of life. BioScience 59: 593-601 [doi | jstor | BioOne | pdf | scribd | ppt slides | post]

[9] Keeley J.E., Pausas J.G., Rundel P.W., Bond W.J., Bradstock R.A. 2011. Fire as an evolutionary pressure shaping plant traits. Trends in Plant Science 16(8): 406-411. [doi | trends | pdf]



November 16th, 2013 No comments

Serotiny is the delayed seed release for more than a year by retaining the seeds in a woody structure [1]. This implies an accumulation of a canopy seed bank. Serotiny confer fitness benefits in environments with frequent crown-fires, as the heat opens the cones and seeds are dispersed in the post-fire bed which is rich in resource and the competition and predation are low. It is typical of many Proteaceae and some conifers, like some pine species [1, 2; figure below].

Two recent papers analyse the serotiny of two mediterranean pines Pinus halepensis and Pinus pinaster [3, 4]. P. halepensis show higher proportion of serotinous cones than P. pinaster, but the latter retain the cones for longer [3]. The two species show high variability of serotiny within and between populations, but they show a clear pattern of higher serotiny in populations subject to high frequency of crown-fires than those living in areas where crown-fires are rare or absent. This is true either considering serotiny as the proportion of serotinous cones or as the age of the cones stored. Compared with other pines worldwide, the strength of the fire-serotiny relationship in P. pinaster is intermediate, and in P. halepensis is among the highest known [3]. For P. halepensis (the species with higher % serotiny), populations in high fire recurrence regimes have higher fine-scale spatial aggregation of serotiny than those inhabiting low fire recurrence systems. This phenotypic spatial structure generated by fire could be a consequence of the spatial genetic structure of the population. The second study used genomic tools to search for a genetic association for serotiny [4]. The analysis of 384 SNPs of 199 individuals of P. pinaster (in 3 populations included in the previous study [3])  shows that 17 loci were associated with serotiny and explain all together ca. 29% of the serotiny variation found in the field. All these results adds further evidence to the emerging view that fire shapes intraspecific variability of traits and generates phenotypic divergence between populations [5, 6, 7].

Figure: Serotinous cones of Pinus pinaster (Foto: K.B. Budde)


[1] Keeley J.E., Bond W.J., Bradstock R.A., Pausas J.G. & Rundel P.W. 2012. Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems: Ecology, Evolution and Management. Cambridge University Press.  [The book]

[2] He T, Pausas JG, Belcher CM, Schwilk DW, Lamont BB. 2012. Fire-adapted traits of Pinus arose in the fiery Cretaceous. New Phytologist 194: 751-759. [doi | wiley | pdf (suppl.)]

[3] Hernández-Serrano A., Verdú M., González-Martínez S.C., Pausas J.G. 2013. Fire structures pine serotiny at different scales. American Journal of Botany 100: 2349-2356 [doi | amjbot | pdf | supp.]

[4] Budde, K. B., Heuertz, M., Hernández-Serrano, A., Pausas, J.G., Vendramin, G.G., Verdú, M. & González-Martínez, S.C. 2014. In situ genetic association for serotiny, a fire-related trait, in Mediterranean maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton). New Phytologist  201: 230-241 [doi | pdf]

[5] Keeley J.E., Pausas J.G., Rundel P.W., Bond W.J., Bradstock R.A. 2011. Fire as an evolutionary pressure shaping plant traits. Trends in Plant Science 16(8): 406-411. [doi] [trends] [pdf]

[6] Pausas, J. G., Schwilk, D. W. 2012. Fire and plant evolution. New Phytologist, 193:301-303. [doi | wiley | pdf]

[7] Pausas J.G., Alessio G., Moreira B. & Corcobado G. 2012. Fires enhance flammability in Ulex parviflorusNew Phytologist 193: 18-23. [doi | wiley | pdf]


Afrotropical and neotropical savannas are different

July 29th, 2013 No comments

Savannas are typically ecosystems dominated by grasses with a variable tree density (e.g., [1]). However, the savanna biome is very large, it occurs in different continents, and includes a large variability in the vegetation structure and composition. Fire and herbivory are the main disturbance factors shaping savannas worldwide and because the different climatic conditions and the different evolutionary histories among different savannas, fire and herbivory regimes also varies among savannas. Because plants are not adapted to fire and herbivory “per se” but to specific regimes of herbivory and fire [2], we expect different strategies to cope with these disturbances in different savannas. In this framework, we have recently compared savannas from Africa and from South America (afrotropical and neotropical savannas respectively) [3]: Afrotropical savannas have a dryer climate and are more intensely grazed than neotropical savannas, and thus the amount of available fuel is typically lower in afrotropical than in the neotropical savannas. Consequently fires tend to be more intense in neotropical savannas. In afrotropical conditions, young woody plants tend to grow quickly in height to soon locate the canopy above the flame zone before the next fire, and above the browsing height. Thus these plants tend to have a pole-like or lanky architecture (the lanky strategy). In contrast, in neotropical savannas where herbivory pressure is lower they require a thick corky bark for protection against relatively intense fires (the corky strategy) [3]. Despite the two fire escape strategies appear in both Africa and South America, we suggest that the lanky strategy is more adaptive in afrotropical savannas, while the corky strategy is more adaptive in neotropical savannas [3].

Figure: Diospyros hispida A.DC. (Ebenaceae), a South American example of a plant with the corky strategy. Although the trunk was fully burned one year earlier (dark branches and trunk), the bark protected the lateral buds which enabled epicormic resprouting and the formation of lateral resprouts (light grey branches). This photo was taken in Emas National Park (cerrado ecosystem, Brazil) at the beginning of the rainy season (2011) when this deciduous plant starts to produce new leaves (Photo: V.L. Dantas). For an example of the lanky strategy see [4].

[1] Dantas V., Batalha, MA & Pausas JG. 2013. Fire drives functional thresholds on the savanna-forest transition Ecology 94:2454-2463. [doi | pdf | blog]

[2] Keeley J.E., Pausas J.G., Rundel P.W., Bond W.J., Bradstock R.A. 2011. Fire as an evolutionary pressure shaping plant traits. Trends Plant Sci. 16(8): 406-411. [doi | trends | pdf]

[3] Dantas V. & Pausas J.G. 2013. The lanky and the corky: fire-escape strategies in savanna woody species Journal of Ecology 101: 1265-1272 [doi | pdf]

[4] Archibald, S. & Bond, W.J. 2003. Growing tall vs growing wide: tree architecture and allometry of Acacia karoo in forest, savanna, and arid environments. Oikos, 102: 3-14.


A new global fire map

March 6th, 2013 2 comments

We have used remotely sensed fire information for the whole globe and aggregated this information by the WWF ecoregions, to produce an ecologically-based global fire map (figure below [1]). Using this map we have tested the intermediate fire-productivity model [2,3], i.e. that fire activity changes along the productivity/aridity gradient following a humped relationship. The results suggest that fires occur in all biomes and in nearly all world ecoregions. Fire activity peaked in tropical grasslands and savannas, and significantly decreased towards the extremes of the productivity gradient. Both the sensitivity of fire to high temperatures and the above-ground biomass increased monotonically with productivity. In other words, fire activity in low-productivity ecosystems is not driven by warm periods and is limited by low biomass; in contrast, in high-productivity ecosystems fire is more sensitive to high temperatures, and in these ecosystems, the available biomass for fires is high. The results support the intermediate fire–productivity model on a global scale and suggest that climatic warming may affect fire activity differently depending on the productivity of the region. Fire regimes in productive regions are more vulnerable to warming (drought-driven fire regime changes), while in low-productivity regions fire activity is more vulnerable to fuel changes (fuel-driven fire regime changes [4]).

Figure: An ecologically-based global fire map, from Pausas & Ribeiro (2013) [1]. The shape file is available under request [email here].

[1] Pausas J.G. & Ribeiro E. 2013. The global fire-productivity relationship. Global Ecol. & Biogeogr. 22: 728-736 [doi | pdf | erratum] – UPDATE: Paper featured by NASA.

[2] Pausas J.G. & Paula S. 2012. Fuel shapes the fire-climate relationship: evidence from Mediterranean ecosystems. Global Ecol. & Biogeogr. 21: 1074-1082. [doi | pdf | supp]

[3] Pausas J.G. & Bradstock R.A. 2007. Fire persistence traits of plants along a productivity and disturbance gradient in Mediterranean shrublands of SE Australia. Global Ecol. & Biogeogr. 330-340. [pdf | doi]

[4] Pausas J.G. & Fernández-Muñoz S. 2012. Fire regime changes in the Western Mediterranean Basin: from fuel-limited to drought-driven fire regime. Climatic Change 110: 215-226.  [doi |  pdf]



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