Posts Tagged ‘germination’

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]


Smoke-stimulated recruitment

September 16th, 2013 No comments

In many plant species from mediterranean ecosystems, germination is promoted by fire [1]; this effect may be driven by the heat [e.g., 2-4] or by the chemicals produced by the fire (e.g., smoke, 4,5]). Most information regarding to smoke-stimulated germination in the Mediterranean Basin comes from a few experiments performed in laboratory conditions. This approach does not consider factors that occur in the field, such as species interactions, density-dependent processes or the fact that seeds spent time in the soil. A recent field experiment performed in eastern Spain show that smoke increase overall seedling recruitment, specially seedlings of annual plant species [6]. However, despite most species had higher seedling establishment in the smoke than in the control subplots, there were very few species in which the effect of smoke was statistically significant, suggesting that the community response to smoke cannot be inferred from individual species; it is the sum of small differences in each species towards the same direction that produces a significant pattern at community scale. This emerging property of the community is often neglected by only considering germination experiments in the laboratory. The results also suggest that the effect of smoke in annual species of the Mediterranean Basin might be more relevant than previously thought.

[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] Paula S. & Pausas J.G. 2008. Burning seeds: Germinative response to heat treatments in relation to resprouting ability. Journal of Ecology 96 (3): 543 – 552. [pdf | doi]

[3] Moreira B. & Pausas J.G. 2012. Tanned or burned: The role of fire in shaping physical seed dormancy. PLoS ONE 7: e51523. [doi | plos | pdfblog]

[4] Moreira B., Tormo J., Estrelles E., Pausas J.G. 2010. Disentangling the role of heat and smoke as germination cues in Mediterranean Basin flora. Annals of Botany 105: 627-635. [pdf | doi | post]

[5] Smoke-stimulated germination,, 2/Dec/2011.

[6] Tormo, J., B. Moreira, and J. G. Pausas. 2014. Field evidence of smoke-stimulated seedling emergence and establishment in Mediterranean Basin flora. Journal of Vegetation Science 25: 771-777 [doi | wiley | pdf]

Seed dormancy as a fire adaptation in Mediterranean ecosystems

December 6th, 2012 1 comment

Plant species with physical seed dormancy are common in mediterranean fire-prone ecosystems. Because fire breaks seed dormancy and enhances the recruitment of many species, this trait might be considered adaptive in fire-prone environments [1]. However, to what extent the temperature thresholds that break physical seed dormancy have been shaped by fire (i.e., for post-fire recruitment) or by summer temperatures in the bare soil (i.e., for recruitment in fire-independent gaps) remains unknown [1]. In a recent paper published in PLoS ONE [2], we tested these two alternatives in six woody species (21 populations) occurring in fire-prone areas across the Mediterranean Basin (Spain and Turkey). Seeds from different populations of each species were subject to heat treatments simulating fire (i.e., a single high temperature peak of 100ºC, 120ºC or 150ºC for 5 minutes) and heat treatments simulating summer (i.e., temperature fluctuations; 30 daily cycles of 3 hours at 31ºC, 4 hours at 43ºC, 3 hours at 33ºC and 14 hours at 18ºC).

The results showed that fire treatments broke dormancy and stimulated germination in all populations of all species. In contrast, summer treatments had no effect over the seed dormancy for most species and only enhanced the germination in Ulex parviflorus, although less than the fire treatments. That is, the results suggest that in Mediterranean species with physical dormancy, the temperature thresholds necessary to trigger seed germination are better explained as a response to fire than as a response to summer temperatures (see Figure below). The high level of dormancy release by the heat produced by fire might enforce most recruitment to be capitalized into a single post-fire pulse when the most favorable conditions occur. This supports the important role of fire in shaping seed traits [3]. Given that seed dormancy is heritable, demonstrating that it provides higher chances of recruitment (i.e., higher potential fitness benefits) in response to fire than in response to summer temperatures suggests the temperature threshold for breaking dormancy might be an adaptation to fire [1, 4].

Figure: Germination (%) in fire conditions (y axis) versus germination (%) in summer conditions (x axis) for 6 species (21 populations across the Mediterranean basin). Intraspecific variability (i.e., among populations) is indicated by small symbols (mean population value) emerging from the large symbol (mean species value). The 1:1 line is also shown (dotted line). Species considered are: Cistus albidus, Cistus creticus, Cistus parviflorus, Cistus salviifolius, Fumana thymifolia, and Ulex parviflorus.

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

[2] Moreira, B. and J. G. Pausas. in press. Tanned or burned: The role of fire in shaping physical seed dormancy. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39810. [doi | pdf]

[3] Moreira B., Tavsanoglu Ç., Pausas J.G. 2012. Local versus regional intraspecific variability in regeneration traits. Oecologia 168: 671-677. [doi | pdf]

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

Smoke-stimulated germination

December 2nd, 2011 No comments

It is know that the germination of some species from Mediterranean fire-prone ecosystems is triggered by combustion chemicals which appear in the smoke and the charred wood (for simplicity, we use the term “smoke-stimulate germination”). This smoke-stimulated germination is now known from many post-fire recruiting species in South Africa, Australia, California and the Mediterranean Basin [e.g., 1-4]. Certain nitrogen oxides (NOx) induce germination in a limited number post-fire species [3], but this does not apply to most the smoke-stimulated species. In 2004 two independent studies isolated the active organic compound from the smoke that stimulates germination [5,6]: butanolide (also named karrikinolide). Because this compound is a derived from the combustion of cellulose it was thought to be universal germination cue in all smoke-stimulated plants. However, the fact that smoke-induced germination appears in very distant regions and in species from very different lineages, suggest that unrelated species could had evolve mechanisms that are triggered by different components from the smoke [7]. Later it was demonstrated that some species with smoke-stimulated germination did not responded to butanolide, supporting the idea that could be multiple mechanisms to stimulate germination by smoke [8]. A recent paper has found a new smoke-stimulation mechanism from which burning plant material produces cyanide that stimulate the germination of some species [9]. Little by little we are learning on the role of fire in plant ecology and evolution [7, 10].

Figure:  Germination percentage (mean+s.e.) in relation to time since sowing (days) for Cistus monspeliensis after different heat treatments (A), and for Lavandula stoechas after different smoke treatments (B). From Moreira et al. (2010) [4]

[1] Brown, N. A. C. 1993. Promotion of germination of fynbos seeds by plant-derived smoke. New Phytologist 123:575-584.

[2] Dixon, K. W., S. Roche, and J. S. Pate. 1995. The promotive effect of smoke derived from burnt native vegetation on seed germination of Western Australian plants. Oecologia 101:185-192.

[3] Keeley, J. E. and C. J. Fotheringham. 2000. Role of fire in regeneration from seeds. Pages 311-330 in M. Fenner, editor. Seeds: The ecology of regeneration in plant communities. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.

[4] Moreira, B., J. Tormo, E. Estrelles, and J. G. Pausas. 2010. Disentangling the role of heat and smoke as germination cues in Mediterranean Basin flora. Annals of Botany 105:627-635. [doi | pdf | post]

[5] Van Staden, J., A. Jäger, M. Light, and B. Burger. 2004. Isolation of the major germination cue from plant-derived smoke. South African Journal of Botany 70:654-659.

[6] Flematti, G. R., E. L. Ghisalberti, K. W. Dixon, and R. D. Trengove. 2004. A compound from smoke that promotes seed germination. Science 305:977.

[7] Pausas, J. G. and J. E. Keeley. 2009. A burning story: The role of fire in the history of life. Bioscience 59:593-601. [doi | pdf | post]

[8] Downes, K. S., B. B. Lamont, M. E. Light, and J. van Staden. 2010. The fire ephemeral Tersonia cyathiflora (Gyrostemonaceae) germinates in response to smoke but not the butenolide 3-methyl-2H-furol[2,3-c]pyran-2-one. Annals of Botany 106:381-384.

[9] Flematti, G. R., D. J. Merritt, M. J. Piggott, R. D. Trengove, S. M. Smith, K. W. Dixon, and E. L. Ghisalberti. 2011. Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination. Nature Comm. 2:360.

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

Intraspecific plant variability and the spatial scale

September 24th, 2011 No comments

Variability is a fundamental characteristic of life and the raw material for natural selection, driving speciation and diversification processes. Traditional biogeographical theory would predict that plants in populations that are close each other (e.g., few km) should be more similar among them, than plants in distant populations (e.g., 100s or 1000s km). This is because biogeographical processes such as migration, glacial/interglacial climatic fluctuations and isolation should cause distant plant populations to diverge, and thus enhance intraspecific variability at large scales, while gene flow through close populations should reduce divergences. In contrast, in a recent paper we suggest that in fire prone-ecosystems, where fire may generate local heterogeneity, local variability in traits related to regeneration are quite large, overriding the variability at the larger scale [1]. Studying post-fire regeneration traits in Cistus salviifolius and Lavandula stoechas, in eastern Iberia (IB, Spain) and in south-western Anatolia (AN, Turkey), we found that the trait variability within each region is larger than between regions (separated by about 2600 km, with the sea in the middle). The traits studied were seed size, seed dormancy and germination stimulation by head and by smoke. The two studied species exhibited germination stimulated by the fire-related cues; and independently of the region, the different populations of each species had a similar pattern of response. That is, Cistus salviifolius was stimulated by heat and Lavandula stoechas was mainly stimulated by smoke, although heat also exhibited a positive effect on the latter species (see also [2] for more details on heat- and smoke- stimulated germination). All these results supports the prominent role of fire as an ecological and evolutionary process across the Mediterranean Basin, producing trait variability and shaping biodiversity [3, 4].


[1] Moreira B., Tavsanoglu Ç., Pausas J.G. 2012. Local vs regional intraspecific variability in regeneration traits. Oecologia 168: 671-677 [doi | pdf]

[2] Moreira B., Tormo J., Estrelles E., Pausas J.G. 2010. Disentangling the role of heat and smoke as germination cues in Mediterranean Basin flora. Annals of Botany 105: 627-635.[pdf| doiblog]

[3] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E. 2009. A burning story: The role of fire in the history of life. BioScience 59: 593-601 [doi | pdfpost]

[4] 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 | pdf | For managers]

Heat and smoke as germination cues in the Mediterranean flora

February 25th, 2010 No comments

Until now, the role of fire as a germination cue for Mediterranean Basin plants was unclear. The idea was that heat stimulates germination mainly in Cistaceae and Fabaceae and that smoke had a limited role as a post-fire germination cue, in comparison to other Mediterranean Type Ecosystems (MTE), suggesting that fire-stimulated germination is less relevant in the Mediterranean Basin than in other Mediterranean regions. However, in a recent paper, Moreira et al. (2010) demonstrate that both heat and smoke stimulates the germination (both amount and rate) of a range of woody species from the Mediterranean Basin flora. In addition, some species also showed enhanced seedling growth after the smoke treatment (Figure below). All these results suggest that fire-cued germination in woody plants of Mediterranean Basin may be as important as in other Mediterranean regions, and that fire had a strong role in shaping the Mediterranean species.

Moreira B., Tormo J., Estrelles E., Pausas J.G. 2010. Disentangling the role of heat and smoke as germination cues in Mediterranean Basin flora. Annals of Botany 105: 627-635. [pdf] [full text]


Differences in size between seedlings from untreated (control, left) and treated seeds (smoke, right), for Lavandula latifolia (8 days after seedling emergence). The white squares are of 2.5cm width. (Photo: B. Moreira).

FireStats icon Powered by FireStats