research highlights GRASSLAND ECOLOGY J. Ecol. https:/ /doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.12933 (2018) species found along 103 transects across Canterbury and Otago in South Island, New Zealand. These transects were surveyed three times between 1982 and 2007. Of the 334 species found, 51 accounted for more than 86% of the ground cover and were considered the dominant components of the ecosystem. Samples of these species were placed on a ‘plant barbecue’ at ~150 ºC before being lit with a blowtorch. The time taken to ignite, the temperature of the flame produced and the length of time that the samples burned were all recorded. Combining the make-up of the communities with the traits of individual Credit: Getty Images/Istockphoto/Thinkstock species gave a measure of the flammability of the ecosystems over time. In those locations In grasslands, fire is less an occasional where significant alien invasions had catastrophe and more a regular occurrence. occurred, the general level of flammability Plant species have evolved to survive fires decreased, mainly due to highly flammable and even control it by tuning traits such native tussock grasses being replaced by as flammability to promote particular fire lower-growing and less-flammable exotic regimes. However, ecosystem properties are mat-forming forbs. This could act as a sensitive to disturbance by invading exotic positive feedback by changing the fire species, as is shown by a 25-year study in regime in favour of fewer, shorter and New Zealand's south-eastern South Island. lower-intensity fires that in turn may make By changing the overall flammability of the further invasions by less fire-tolerant grasslands, invading plants probably alter non-native plants easier. the patterns of fires that take place, which can have dramatic effects on subsequent Chris Surridge plant community structure. The researchers investigated the Published online: 31 January 2018 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-018-0113-1 morphology and flammability of plant NAtuRE PLANt S | VOL 4 | FEBRUARY 2018 | 62 | www.nature.com/natureplants © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
Nature Plants – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 31, 2018
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