Trees worldwide develop thicker bark when they live in fire-prone areas

Tree-bark thickness indicates fire-resistance in a hotter future

Date:
January 11, 2017
Source:
Princeton University
Summary:
A new study has found that trees worldwide develop thicker bark when they live in fire-prone areas. The findings suggest that bark thickness could help predict which forests and savannas will survive a warmer climate in which wildfires are expected to increase in frequency.
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A Princeton University-led study has found that trees in fire-prone areas around the world develop thicker bark. For instance, the tree Connarus suberosus grows in the Brazilian Cerrado — which can burn every three to seven years and contains some of the thickest barked species in the world — has a stem diameter that is 30 percent bark. The findings suggest that bark thickness could help predict which forests and savannas will survive a warmer climate in which wildfires are expected to increase in frequency. Credit: Adam Pellegrini, Stanford UniversityClose – https://images.sciencedaily.com/2017/01/170111091429_1_900x600.jpg

Trees in regions where fire is common, such as savannas and the forests of western North America, tend to have thicker bark, while trees in tropical rainforests have thinner bark, researchers at Princeton University and collaborating institutions reported Jan. 9 in the journal Ecology Letters. Bark protects the inside of the trunk from overheating and is one of a handful of adaptations that trees use to survive fire.

“We found large-scale evidence that bark thickness is a fire-tolerance trait, and we showed this is the case not just in a particular biome such as a savanna, but across different types of forests, across regions and across continents,” said first author Adam Pellegrini, a NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University who led the study while a graduate student in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Read the full article: Science Daily

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.