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Fire effects on tree physiology

Author(s): Andreas Bär, Sean T. Michaletz, Stefan Mayr
Year Published: 2019

Heat injuries sustained in a fire can initiate a cascade of complex mechanisms that affect the physiology of trees after fires. Uncovering the exact physiological mechanisms and relating specific injuries to whole‐plant and ecosystem functioning is the focus of intense current research. Recent studies have made critical steps forward in our understanding of tree physiological processes after fires, and have suggested mechanisms by which fire injuries may interact with disturbances such as drought, insects, and pathogens. We outline a conceptual framework that unifies the involved processes, their interconnections, and possible feedbacks, and contextualizes these responses with existing hypotheses for disturbance effects on plants and ecosystems. By focusing on carbon and water as currencies of plant functioning, we demonstrate fire‐induced cambium/phloem necrosis and xylem damage to be main disturbance effects. The resulting carbon starvation and hydraulic dysfunction are linked with drought and insect impacts. Evaluating the precise process relationships will be crucial for fully understanding how fires can affect tree functionality, and will help improve fire risk assessment and mortality model predictions. Especially considering future climate‐driven increases in fire frequency and intensity, knowledge of the physiological tree responses is important to better estimate post‐fire ecosystem dynamics and interactions with climate disturbances.

Citation: Bär, Andreas; Michaletz, Sean T.; Mayr, Stefan. 2019. Fire effects on tree physiology. New Phytologist 223(4):1728-1741. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15871
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Fire Effects
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20160
FRAMES RCS number: 57847
Record updated: Oct 21, 2019