Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Flammability is not selected for, it emerges

Jeremy J. Midgley
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

Botany Department, University of Cape Town, Private Bag Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa. Email: Jeremy.Midgley@uct.ac.za

Australian Journal of Botany 61(2) 102-106 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT12289
Submitted: 6 September 2012  Accepted: 16 January 2013   Published: 28 February 2013

Abstract

The present explanation for the evolution of flammability invokes the need for a flammable mutant parent plant (the torch) to be able to spread the negative effects of fire to less flammable, more fire-sensitive neighbouring plants (the damps). Thereafter, if the torch either produces more seedlings, or more competitive seedlings, in the post-fire environment, to take over the space vacated by both the dead damps and the torch, then torch genotypes could invade. Here, I argue that an individual flammable mutant genotype cannot invade the ‘group’ of non-flammable individuals because it implies unlikely patterns of seed dispersal and fitness advantages. The implication of this is that although flammability can evolve, it is an incidental or emergent property of species or ecosystems and that it confers no extra advantages to individual flammable plants. In contrast, anti-flammability could be both selected for, and evolve.

Additional keywords: fire ecology, fire regimes, fire traits, pyrogenicity.


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