Does recent fire activity impact fire-related traits of Pinus halepensis Mill. and Pinus sylvestris L. in the French Mediterranean area?

Key message
Climate change will induce a change in fire frequency in Mediterranean region and that could impact fire-adapted plant species. We showed that fire-related traits of some pine species are strongly related to other factors than fire but the recent fire history has nonetheless an impact on the variation of key traits for different fire adaptive strategies.

Context In fire-prone Mediterranean areas, climate change is expected to exacerbate the fire pressure on ecosystems, altering the current fire regime and threatening species if they cannot acclimate.
Aims Studying intraspecific variations of some fire-related traits in relation to variation in recent fire activity is thus an important step to better understand if this acclimation is possible.
Methods We measured structural (bark thickness, shoot bulk density, self-pruning, leaf surface to volume ratio) and functional (serotiny level for Pinus halepensis only) traits in two pines species (Pinus halepensis and Pinus sylvestris) commonly found in southeastern France and that present different fire-adaptive strategies (resilience vs resistance, respectively). Populations were sampled according to different fire frequency modalities (0 vs 1 to 2 fires) along a geographical gradient, measuring numerous environmental and plant characteristics to be used cofactors in the analyses.
Results As expected, trait variation was strongly linked to environmental and tree characteristics as well as to ontogeny overriding the effect of fire modalities, even though using integrative models with random effect. However, fire modalities had an impact on the variance of some key fire-related traits of Pinus halepensis.
Conclusion This study will help to anticipate the future response of these Mediterranean pine species and further underlines the importance of investigating chemical traits, flammability, and genetic variation of highly heritable traits, such as serotiny.

Fire adaptive strategies; Structural and functional traits; Fire frequency; Serotiny; Phenotypic diversity

Romero, B., Ganteaume, A. Does recent fire activity impact fire-related traits of Pinus halepensis Mill. and Pinus sylvestris L. in the French Mediterranean area?. Annals of Forest Science 77, 106 (2020).

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Data availability
The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available in the Zenodo repository,

Handling Editor
Paulo Fernandes

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