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Fire and the evolution of pine life histories

August 15th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Many pines species are fire adapted. In 1998, JE Keeley & PH Zedler provided a seminal paper showing the various fire adaptations of pines, and the relation between the different adaptations and the different fire regimes [1]. Recent phylogenetic [2,3] and conceptual [4,5] advances in fire ecology have allowed to better understand the evolutionary role of fire in plants, and specifically in pines [2-6]. In a recent paper, JE Keeley provides a new review on the ecology and evolution of pine life histories [7]. Pinus originated ~150 Ma in the mid-Mesozoic Era and radiated across the northern continent of Laurasia during the Cretaceous period, when fire activity was high [3]. Pines have followed two evolutionary strategies interpreted as responses to competition by the newly emerging angiosperms: 1) The Strobus lineage mostly has radiated into stressful sites of low nutrient soils and extremes in cold or heat; ans 2) The Pinus (subgenus) lineage has radiated into fire-prone landscapes with diverse fire regimes. Based on the life history traits associated to fire, JE Keeley define four pine syndromes [7]: fire-avoiders (no fire-adapted; with thin bark), fire-toleraters (adapted to surface fires; with thick bark and self-pruning of dead branches; tall pines), fire-embracers (adapted to crown fires; with retention of dead branches and serotinous cones), and fire-refugia (with marked metapopulation dynamics) strategies.

Figure: Basal fire scar (a) and cross-section of pine with previous fires delineated (b) demonstrating fire survival after recurrent fires. Photos by JE Keeley from [7].

[1] Keeley J.E. & Zedler P.H. 1998. Evolution of life histories in Pinus. In: Ecology and biogeography of Pinus (ed. Richardson DM). Cambridge University Press Cambridge (UK), pp. 219-250.

[2] Schwilk D.W. & Ackerly D.D. 2001. Flammability and serotiny as strategies: correlated evolution in pines. Oikos, 94, 326-336. [doi]

[3] He T., Pausas J.G., Belcher C.M., Schwilk D.W. & Lamont B.B. 2012. Fire-adapted traits of Pinus arose in the fiery Cretaceous. New Phytol., 194, 751-759. [doi | wiley | pdf ]

[4] 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 | jstor | pdf]

[5] 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]

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

[7] Keeley J.E. 2012. Ecology and evolution of pine life histories. Ann. For. Sci., 69, 445–453. [doi]


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