Welcome to the Pyrocene: Animal survival in the age of megafire

Dale G. Nimmo, Alexandra J.R. Carthey, Chris J. Jolly, Daniel T. Blumstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Planet Earth is entering the age of megafire, pushing ecosystems to their limits and beyond. While fire causes mortality of animals across vast portions of the globe, scientists are only beginning to consider fire as an evolutionary force in animal ecology. Here, we generate a series of hypotheses regarding animal responses to fire by adopting insights from the predator–prey literature. Fire is a lethal threat; thus, there is likely strong selection for animals to recognize the olfactory, auditory, and visual cues of fire, and deploy fire avoidance behaviours that maximize survival probability. If fire defences are costly, it follows that intraspecific variation in fire avoidance behaviours should correspond with variation in fire behaviour and regimes. Species and populations inhabiting ecosystems that rarely experience fire may lack these traits, placing ‘fire naive’ populations and species at enhanced extinction risk as the distribution of fire extends into new ecosystem types. We outline a research agenda to understand behavioural responses to fire and to identify conservation interventions that could be used to overcome fire naivety.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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