Integrating Animal and Plant Paradigms to Enhance Fire Ecology

I’m excited to have a new article on animal and plant ecology in the journal Fire.

We call for better integration of animal-based and plant-based approaches in fire ecology (summarised in the figure below).

This one was a few years in the making but was a lot of fun to write with a team of scientists doing novel research, on a range of taxa, in ecosystems around the world.

The paper is open access and you can download the whole thing here.

Abstract. Conserving animals and plants in fire-prone landscapes requires evidence of how fires affect modified ecosystems. Despite progress on this front, fire ecology is restricted by a dissonance between two dominant paradigms: ‘fire mosaics’ and ‘functional types’. The fire mosaic paradigm focuses on animal responses to fire events and spatial variation, whereas the functional type paradigm focuses on plant responses to recurrent fires and temporal variation. Fire management for biodiversity conservation requires input from each paradigm because animals and plants are interdependent and influenced by spatial and temporal dimensions of fire regimes. We propose that better integration of animal-based and plant-based approaches can be achieved by identifying common metrics that describe changes in multiple taxa; linking multiple components of the fire regime with animal and plant data; understanding plant-animal interactions; and incorporating spatial and temporal characteristics of fires into conservation management. Our vision for a more integrated fire ecology could be implemented via a collaborative and global network of research and monitoring sites, where measures of animals and plants are linked to real-time data on fire regimes.Kelly et al Figure 1

Figure 1. Fire mosaic and functional type paradigms can be defined by the following characteristics: (i) taxonomic focus (animal-based vs. plant-based); (ii) how they characterize fire regimes (fire events vs. recurrent fires); (iii) the mode of generalization (habitat change vs. life-history traits); and (iv) implications for fire management (spatial mosaics vs. temporal intervals). A more integrated approach would emphasize: multiple taxonomic groups and their interactions (biodiversity); different components of the fire regime acting in concert (fire regimes); comprehensive understanding of mechanisms underpinning biotic associations with fire and interdependency between different taxa (shared mechanisms); and decision-making that considers how both spatial and temporal dimensions of fire regimes influence biodiversity (spatio-temporal management).

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