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Evolutionary ecology of fire

October 31, 2022

Fire has been an ecosystem process since plants colonized land over 400 million years ago. Many diverse traits provide a fitness benefit following fires, and these adaptive traits vary with the fire regime. Some of these traits enhance fire survival, while others promote recruitment in the postfire environment. Demonstrating that these traits are fire adaptations is challenging, since many arose early in the paleontological record, although increasingly better fossil records and phylogenetic analysis make timing of these trait origins to fire more certain. Resprouting from the base of stems is the most widely distributed fire-adaptive trait, and it is likely to have evolved under a diversity of disturbance types. The origins of other traits like serotiny, thick bark, fire-stimulated germination, and postfire flowering are more tightly linked to fire. Fire-adaptive traits occur in many environments: boreal and temperate forests, Mediterranean-type climate (MTC) shrublands, savannas, and other grasslands. MTC ecosystems are distinct in that many taxa in different regions have lost the resprouting ability and depend solely on postfire recruitment for postfire recovery. This obligate seeding mode is perhaps the most vulnerable fire-adaptive syndrome in the face of current global change, particularly in light of increasing anthropogenic fire frequency.

Publication Year 2022
Title Evolutionary ecology of fire
DOI 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-102320-095612
Authors Jon Keeley, Juli G. Pausas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
Index ID 70238514
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center