Article thumbnail

Fire History from Life-History: Determining the Fire Regime that a Plant Community Is Adapted Using Life-Histories

By Graeme Armstrong and Ben Phillips


Wildfire is a fundamental disturbance process in many ecological communities, and is critical in maintaining the structure of some plant communities. In the past century, changes in global land use practices have led to changes in fire regimes that have radically altered the composition of many plant communities. As the severe biodiversity impacts of inappropriate fire management regimes are recognized, attempts are being made to manage fires within a more ‘natural’ regime. In this aim, the focus has typically been on determining the fire regime to which the community has adapted. Here we take a subtly different approach and focus on the probability of a patch being burnt. We hypothesize that competing sympatric taxa from different plant functional groups are able to coexist due to the stochasticity of the fire regime, which creates opportunities in both time and space that are exploited differentially by each group. We exploit this situation to find the fire probability at which three sympatric grasses, from different functional groups, are able to co-exist. We do this by parameterizing a spatio-temporal simulation model with the life-history strategies of the three species and then search for the fire frequency and scale at which they are able to coexist when in competition. The simulation gives a clear result that these species only coexist across a very narrow range of fire probabilities centred at 0.2. Conversely, fire scale was found only to be important at very large scales. Our work demonstrates the efficacy of using competing sympatric species with different regeneration niches to determine the probability of fire in any given patch. Estimating this probability allows us to construct an expected historical distribution of fire return intervals for the community; a critical resource for managing fire-driven biodiversity in the face of a growing carbon economy and ongoing climate change

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central

Suggested articles


  1. (1996). A functional classification for predicting the dynamics of landscapes.
  2. (2002). A spatial model of coexistence among three Banksia species along a topographic gradient in fireprone shrublands.
  3. (1997). Aboriginal fire regimes in Queensland, Australia: analysis of the explorers’ record.
  4. (2002). Aboriginal fires in monssonal Australia from historical accounts.
  5. (1997). Aboriginal Resource Utilization and Fire Management Practice in Western Arnhem Land, Monsoonal Northern Australia: Notes for Prehistory, Lessons for the Future.
  6. (2010). Age and growth of a fire prone Tasmanian temperate old-growth forest stand dominated by Eucalyptus regnans, the world’s tallest angiosperm.
  7. (2008). Big fires and their ecological impacts in Australian savannas: size and frequency matters.
  8. (2003). Contemporary fire regimes of northern Australia, 1997–2001: change since Aboriginal occupancy, challenges for sustainable management.
  9. (2008). Costs of persistence and the spread of competing seeders and sprouters.
  10. (2010). Does fuels management accomplish restoration in southwest Oregon, USA, chaparal? Insights from age structure.
  11. (2011). EcoFire: restoring the biodiversity values of the Kimberley region by managing fire.
  12. (2001). Ecology of sprouting in woody plants: the persistence niche.
  13. (2004). Effects of individual fire events on the flower production of fruit-bearing tree species, with reference to Aboriginal people’s management and use, at Kalumburu,
  14. (2011). Evidence for the equal resilience of Triodia spp. (Poaceae), from different functional groups, to frequent fire dating back to the late Pleistocene.
  15. (2004). Extinction risk from climate change.
  16. (2005). Fire as a global ‘herbivore’: the ecology and evolution of flammable ecosystems.
  17. (2009). Fire regimes and interval-sensitive vegetation in semiarid Gregory National Park, northern Australia.
  18. (1996). Fire-driven extinction of plant populations: a synthesis of theory and review of evidence from Australian vegetation.
  19. (2010). Global congruence of carbon storage and biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems.
  20. (2009). Global Pyrogeography: the Current and Future Distribution of Wildfire.
  21. (2000). Granstrom A
  22. (2009). Impact of storm-burning on Melaleuca viridiflora invasion of grasslands and grassy woodlands on Cape York Peninsula,
  23. (2009). Implications of changing climate for global wildland fire.
  24. (2011). Landscape partitioning among Triodia spp. (Poaceae) in the fire prone Kimberley, north-west Australia.
  25. (2011). Linking tree-ring and sedimentcharcoal records to reconstruct fire occurrence and area burned in subalpine forests of Yellowstone National Park,
  26. (2009). Modeling seed dispersal by wind in herbaceous species.
  27. (2004). Niche tradeoffs, neutrality and community structure: A stochastic theory of resource competition, invasion and community assembly.
  28. (2006). Persistence of obligate-seeding species at the population scale: effects of fire intensity, fire patchiness and long fire-free intervals.
  29. (2004). Plant Functional Traits in Relation to Fire in Crown-Fire Ecosystems.
  30. (2007). Plant functional types can predict decade-scale changes in fire-prone vegetation.
  31. (1992). Possibilities for dispersal in annual and perennial grasses in a savanna in Botswana.
  32. (2008). Pre-European fire regimes in Australian ecosystems.
  33. (1984). Predator satiation and site alteration following fire: mass reproduction of Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) in south eastern Australia.
  34. (2002). Predicting changes in community composition and ecosystem functioning from plant traits: revisiting the Holy Grail.
  35. (2010). Projecting climate change impacts on species distributions in megadiverse South African Cape and Southwest Australian Floristic Regions: Opportunities and challenges.
  36. (2010). R: A language and environment for statistical computing.
  37. (2010). Southern African fire regimes as revealed by remote sensing.
  38. (2008). Spatio-temporal trends in tree cover of a tropical mesic savanna are driven by landscape disturbance.
  39. (2007). Stochastic Species Turnover and Stable Coexistence in a Species-Rich, Fire-Prone Plant Community.
  40. (2005). The global distribution of ecosystems in a world without fire.
  41. (1998). The impact of Aboriginal landscape burning on the Australian biota.
  42. (1977). The maintenance of species richness in plant communities: the importance of the regeneration niche.
  43. (2011). The post-fire response of an obligate seeding Triodia species (Poaceae) in the fire-prone Kimberley, north-west Australia.
  44. (1988). The soil seed bank of Triodia basedowii in relation to time since fire.
  45. (2009). TIBCO Software Inc. Palo Alto CA USA. Determining Fire Probability in a Plant
  46. (2004). World on Fire.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.