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Fire responses shape plant communities in a minimal model for fire ecosystems across the world

Magnani, M., Díaz-Sierra, R., Sweeney, L., Provenzale, A. and Baudena, M. (2023) Fire responses shape plant communities in a minimal model for fire ecosystems across the world. The American Naturalist. ISSN 1537-5323

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1086/725391


Across plant communities worldwide, fire regimes reflect a combination of climatic factors and plant characteristics. To shed new light on the complex relationships between plant characteristics and fire regimes, we developed a new conceptual mechanistic model that includes plant competition, stochastic fires, and fire-vegetation feedback. Considering a single standing plant functional type, we observed that highly flammable and slowly colonizing plants can persist only when they have a strong fire response, while fast colonizing and less flammable plants can display a larger range of fire responses. At the community level, the fire response of the strongest competitor determines the existence of alternative ecological states (i.e., different plant communities) under the same environmental conditions. Specifically, when the strongest competitor had a very strong fire response, such as in Mediterranean forests, only one ecological state could be achieved. Conversely, when the strongest competitor was poorly fire adapted, alternative ecological states emerged—for example, between tropical humid savannas and forests or between different types of boreal forests. These findings underline the importance of including the plant fire response when modeling fire ecosystems, for example, to predict the vegetation response to invasive species or to climate change.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:112866
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Publisher:University of Chicago Press

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