EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The role of plant traits in shaping fire regimes in different ecosystems across the world

Mara Baudena1, Rubén Diaz-Sierra2, Antonello Provenzale3, Luke Sweeney1, and Marta Magnani3,4,5
Mara Baudena et al.
  • 1Utrecht University, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht, Netherlands (
  • 2Faculty of Sciences, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia-UNED, Madrid, Spain
  • 3Institute of Geoscience and Earth Resources, National Research Council of Italy
  • 4University of Turin & INFN, Italy
  • 5Centre for Complex Systems Studies (CCSS), Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Fire is an important disturbance process, having significant socio-economic consequences on the one hand, while fulfilling a vital ecological role on the other. Across fire-prone ecosystems, different fire regimes can be found, reflecting a combination of climatic factors and of different plant species characteristics. Ecosystem flammability and fuel load are the most evident and well-studied aspects of fire regime, with only recently attention being devoted to plant traits associated with fire adaptation and post-fire response. The aim of this research is to understand the role that plant traits have in driving fire regimes in different fire-prone ecosystems across the world. A mathematical, mechanistic model was developed representing vegetation dynamics, including stochastic fires and different plant fire-responses. We observe that differences in combinations of plant traits are an important factor in determining alternative ecological states. This is driven by differences in how plants determine fire occurrence and in relation to competition between plant species. Differing plant communities under the same climatic conditions can occur when the most competitive plant types do not have a strong resistance to fires, leading to different ecological and fire regime states for example in some tropical savannas and forests, or in Boreal forests. Conversely, when the dominant plant type has a very strong, post-fire response (at individual level), as e.g. in Mediterranean forests, only one ecological state is possible. This research can help improving understanding of changes in fire regime in the future to assist in fire management efforts, and underlines the importance of including plant fire-responses when modelling fire ecosystems under climate-change scenarios.

How to cite: Baudena, M., Diaz-Sierra, R., Provenzale, A., Sweeney, L., and Magnani, M.: The role of plant traits in shaping fire regimes in different ecosystems across the world, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13840,, 2020

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Presentation version 1 – uploaded on 04 May 2020
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-13840, saverio vicario, 05 May 2020

    I am interested to know with what kind of data parameters model are estimated.  It would be relevant information data from remote sensing map of change postfire? Thanks for the very clear display

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Marta Magnani, 05 May 2020

      Thanks for your interest Saverio. The parameters of the model were estimated from published data, mostly originating at plant species and community level.  High-resolution remote sensing for specific case studies could also be used, using pre- and post-fire vegetation covers, leading to interesting applications and prediction, although ground data about plant types (e.g. life span etc..) would still be necessary.