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Ecological effects of fire

Author(s): William J. Bond, Robert E. Keane
Year Published: 2017

Fire is an enormously influential disturbance over large areas of land in the modern world. Vegetation burns because the Earth’s atmosphere contains sufficient oxygen (415%) to support combustion (Pyne, 2001). Oxygen started to accumulate in the atmosphere about 2 billion years ago and, since the appearance of plants in the Devonian (B400 million years ago) to provide fuel, there is an almost continuous record of fossil charcoal over the past 350 million years indicating that the atmosphere supported combustion for most of terrestrial plant evolution (Scott, 2000). Oxygen levels reached maxima in the Upper Carboniferous, about 300 million years ago (Ma), when abundant fossil charcoal indicates frequent fires. Fires were also common during the Cretaceous (135–165 Ma) when flowering plants (angiosperms) first began to spread. Fossil flowers, with fine structure beautifully preserved as charcoal, are common and widespread in Cretaceous deposits (Nixon and Crepet, 1993). At these and other times, frequent fires may have played a significant part in the ecology and evolution of paleo-ecosystems (Bowman et al., 2009). +More

Citation: Bond WJ,; Keane RE. 2017. Fires, ecological effects of. Reference Module in Life Sciences. doi:10.1016/B978-0-809633-8l02098-7.
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Public Perspectives of Fire Management, Fire Ecology, Fire History
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Synthesis
NRFSN number: 16500
Record updated: Jan 31, 2018