Flammable biomes dominated by eucalypts originated at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary.

Michael D. Crisp, Geoffrey Burrows, Lyn G. Cook, Andrew H. Thornhill, David MJS Bowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

120 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Fire is a major modifier of communities, but the evolutionary origins of its prevalent role in shaping current biomes are uncertain. Australia is among the most fire-prone continents, with most of the landmass occupied by the fire-dependent sclerophyll and savanna biomes. In contrast to biomes with similar climates in other continents, Australia has a tree flora dominated by a single genus, Eucalyptus, and related Myrtaceae. A unique mechanism in Myrtaceae for enduring and recovering from fire damage likely resulted in this dominance. Here, we find a conserved phylogenetic relationship between post-fire resprouting (epicormic) anatomy and biome evolution, dating from 60 to 62 Ma, in the earliest Palaeogene. Thus, fire-dependent communities likely existed 50 million years earlier than previously thought. We predict that epicormic resprouting could make eucalypt forests and woodlands an excellent long-term carbon bank for reducing atmospheric CO2 compared with biomes with similar fire regimes in other continents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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Ecosystem
Fires
continents
Myrtaceae
fire damage
plants (botany)
anatomy
Eucalyptus
dating
climate
Climate
Anatomy
Carbon
carbon

Cite this

Crisp, Michael D. ; Burrows, Geoffrey ; Cook, Lyn G. ; Thornhill, Andrew H. ; Bowman, David MJS. / Flammable biomes dominated by eucalypts originated at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary. In: Nature Communications. 2011 ; Vol. 2, No. 1. pp. 1-8.
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Flammable biomes dominated by eucalypts originated at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary. / Crisp, Michael D.; Burrows, Geoffrey; Cook, Lyn G.; Thornhill, Andrew H.; Bowman, David MJS.

In: Nature Communications, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2011, p. 1-8.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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