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Little evidence for fire-adapted plant traits in Mediterranean climate regions

Theblackened trunks and stunning post-fire flowering of Nuytsia floribunda (Christmas tree) after a summer fire in the Cape Arid National Park, Western Australia. Most wildfires occur in the dry summer-autumn, whereas prescribed burns are mainly carried out in winter months for safety reasons.

 

 

Fire in a Eucalyptus gomphocephala (tuart) woodland in Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth. Many eucalypts are fire resistant and can re-sprout from lignotubers (swellings at the base of the trunk containing new buds) or from epicormis buds below bark. Tuarts are killed by extremely hot fire and rely on seed to regenerate. Trees will resprout from epicormic buds after low intensity fires.

Banksia speciosa cone and seedling.  Many banksias exhibit serotiny – the retention of seeds until an environmental trigger such as fire or death of limbs causes the cone to open. Seedlings that emerge in a post-fire landscape have less competition from other plants, they face fewer pathogens and herbivores, and enjoy enhanced nutrients. However, the recent paper by Bradshaw and colleagues calls for meticulous evidence to discriminate whether such selective regimes led to  the evolution of traits exhibited by banksias, or other selective processes  account for the origin of these traits. In short, are banksias adapted to, or do they simply cope with, fire? The answer has profound implications for fire management policy and practice.

 

Anigozanthos rufus (the red kangaroo paw) flowering after a fire in the Cape Arid National Park, Western Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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