Posts Tagged ‘Juniperus’

Postfire in a Mexican arid ecosystem

April 24th, 2019 No comments

Arid ecosystems have a climate appropriate for fires, but their low biomass often limits the frequency and intensity of fires; yet they still occur. A recent study evaluated the survival and resprouting of four species 6 months after a fire [1] in Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve (Puebla, Mexico), and show that most individuals of the four species survived:

  • Dasylirion lucidum (Asparagaceae): the apical bud of most (97%) plants survived and quickly produced new leaves; few individuals shows basal resprouts.
  • Juniperus deppeana (Cupressaceae): 75% of the trees survived, some resprout from the base, others from epicormic buds (see also here)
  • Echinocactus platyacantus (Cactaceae): 95% survived
  • Agave potatorum (Asparagaceae): 90% survived and continued to growth new leaves from the central of the plants

All species are endemic of Mexico except Juniperus deppeana that also occurs in the southwestern USA (Arizona, Texas, New Mexico).


Landscape dominated by Dasylirion lucidum 6 months after a fire in Tehuacán, Mexico [1].


Dasylirion lucidum (a), Juniperus deppeana with epicormic resprouts (b), Echinocactus platyacantus (c), and Agave potatorum (d) six months postfire in Tehuacán, Mexico [1].



[1] Rodríguez-Trejo, D. A., Pausas, J. G. & Miranda-Moreno, A. G. 2019. Plant responses to fire in a Mexican arid shrubland. Fire Ecology 15:11 [doi | pdf]  

[2] Pausas J.G. Flammable Mexico. Int. J. Wildland Fire 25: 711-713 [doi | pdf]

More on: México fires | Juniperus deppeana postfire |



The perch effect

March 30th, 2019 No comments

The perch effect refers to the process in which trees are used as perches by frugivorous birds, and because these birds defecate and/or regurgitate seeds while perching, they generate an increased recruitment of fleshy-fruited plants below the trees [1]. Thus, seed rain, and the resulting seedling recruitment and sapling spatial pattern of bird-dispersed (fleshy-fruited) plants is highly patchy and largely restricted to microhabitats beneath trees, in contrast to the pattern of other plants (e.g., wind-dispersed plants [1]). This effect is commonly observed in abandoned fruit orchards in the Mediterranean region, such as those oldfieds of carob trees [1], and thus is an example of how some of the species traditionally considered “late-successional species” occur at early stages of the oldfield succession.

In a recent visit to the Doñana Natural Park (southern Spain) I saw some of the most impressive cases of perch effect (photos below). Pines (Pinus pinea) were widely planted in the region during the 20th C and are currently the dominant tree of the area. However, little by little, junipers (Juniperus phoenicea) are naturally colonizing the area. They have fleshy fruits dispersed by birds, and thus they recruit below the pines where the bird perched. Some of the junipers has grown enough that the effect cannot be unnoticed at all. There are places where most pines have a juniper growing below. It is nice to feel the dynamic of this ecosystem, and the recolonization of the natural habitat.

The importance of bird perching for the dispersal of many plants is one of the reasons why dead trees after a fire should not be cut down, as too often is done in Spain (example1, example2). They help the colonization of bird-dispersed plants (as well as they are habitat for many animals, they reduce the water impact on the soil, retain fog, maintain certain humidity, etc.).


Juniperus phoenicea colonizing Pinus pinea (stone pine) plantations



[1] Pausas J.G., Bonet A., Maestre F.T., Climent A. 2006. The role of the perch effect on the nucleation process in Mediterranean semi-arid oldfields. Acta Oecologica 29: 346-352. [doi | pdf]

More on: Pines | Doñana postfire | Juniperus

Juniperus deppeana postfire

November 18th, 2017 No comments

Some trees species, like many Eucalyptus, resprout from a lignotuber (a basal burl [1]) when young, and from epicormic (stem) buds [2] at the adult stage. This seems also the case for Juniperus deppeana (alligator juniper), at least the ones from the Trans-Pecos region, Far West Texas, USA. Big trees can survive surface fires (Fig. 1a below) thanks to their relatively thick bark (Fig. 1b). In the upper part of the Guadalupe mountains, a fire in May 2016 spread throughout the surface, crowning in some specific spots. In these areas, smaller trees were resprouting from lignotubers (Fig. 1c) while large trees were resprouting from epicormic buds (Fig. 1d). In this dry forest in Guadalupe, Juniperus deppeana is abundant; in addition, two other conifers relatively rare in Texas are also common: Pinus ponderosa and Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir); many of the large individuals of the latter species were dead from a recent drought previous to the fire. The forest also included some oaks, both tree and shrub oak species, and an understory with grasses, Agave and Dasylirion species.


Figure 1. Photos of Juniperus deppeana (alligator juniper). a) A very large juniper with fire scars from surface fires (and Dylan Schwilk, Texas Tech University, in front of it). b) Detail of the bark. c) Basal stem excavated to show that postfire resprouts originates from a below-ground bud bank, a lignotuber. d) Postfire epicormic resprouting. Photos a) and b) from Davis Mountains, c) and d) from Guadalupe Mountains (1.5 years after a fire), Trans-Pecos region, Texas, November 2017.



[1] Paula S., Naulin P.I., Arce C., Galaz C. & Pausas J.G. 2016. Lignotubers in Mediterranean basin plants. Plant Ecology 217: 661-676. [doi | pdf | suppl.]

[2] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E. 2017. Epicormic resprouting in fire-prone ecosystems. Trends in Plant Science 22(12): xx-xx. [doi | pdf]

More on: epicormic resprouting | lignotubers