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

Posted: 11 Jan 2017 06:14 AM PST  full article here

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….

…the study illustrates how climate change could create conditions that already-endangered ecosystems cannot withstand. “As periods of drought begin to be seen more frequently in tropical forests — the lungs of our planet — the risk that these ecosystems will burn increases,” said Coulson, who is familiar with the study but had no role in it.

Because the species found there are not well-adapted to cope with fire, the consequences could be devastating,” he said. “[This] work highlights that the changes we are making to our climate can put ecosystems at risk to factors, such as fire, that they are poorly equipped to deal with.

Adam F. A. Pellegrini, William R. L. Anderegg, C. E. Timothy Paine, William A. Hoffmann, Tyler Kartzinel, Sam S. Rabin, Douglas Sheil, Augusto C. Franco, Stephen W. Pacala. Convergence of bark investment according to fire and climate structures ecosystem vulnerability to future change. Ecology Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12725