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MEDECOS XII (2011): fire and evolution

November 26th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Mediterranean Ecosystem (MEDECOS) conferences are held every 3–5 yrs, rotating venues through all five Mediterranean-type climate (MTC) regions of the world. The first meeting was held in Valdivia (Chile) in 1971. The last MEDECOS was held in Los Angeles (University of California, September 6-9, 2011, [1]), and about 300 scientist from the different MTC regions got together and presented their research on the different aspects of the ecology in mediterranean ecosystems. In this MEDECOS, fire was an important topic, it was explicit in the title at least in the following 5 special sessions:

Fire as an evolutionary pressure shaping plant traits (6th Sept, Pausas & Schwilk)
– Fire management at the wildland-urban interface (7th Sept, Keeley)
– Global change and fire (7th Sept, van Mantgem)
– Fire ecology in Mediterranean woodlands ans shrublands (8th Sept, O’Leary)
– Fire management (9th Sept, Fotheringham)

Dylan Schwilk and I organised the first one which highlighted several key aspects on the role of fire in plant evolution: First, there is good evidence for vegetation-fire regime feedbacks at different spatial and temporal scales, in such a way that plant flammability is a major driver of plant evolution and vegetation distribution. Second, the evidence that fire acts as a selective force is apparent on both micro- and macro-evolutionary scales, suggesting that fire shapes plant traits and generates fire adaptations. And third, that fire is a complex selective pressure – plants adapt to (and, in turn, influence) particular fire regimes rather than fire in the abstract. This is an exciting time for fire ecologists, as fire is now recognized as fundamental for many ecological and evolutionary processes; the coming macro- and micro- evolutionary studies will certainly reinforce many of the ideas drawn during the meeting [2]. The details of this session, including slides of the talks and a summary of the session [2], are now available here .

[1 ] MEDECOS 2011:  web | program | abstracts | final resolution

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

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