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


Crisp, MD and Burrows, GE and Cook, LG and Thornhill, AH and Bowman, DMJS, Flammable biomes dominated by eucalypts originated at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary, Nature Communications, 2 Article 193. ISSN 2041-1723 (2011) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2011 Macmillan Publisher Limited

DOI: doi:10.1038/ncomms1191


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 CO(2) compared with biomes with similar fire regimes in other continents.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:flammable biomes, fire-dependent communities, epicormic resprouting, carbon bank, atmospheric CO2
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Plant biology
Research Field:Plant biology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:76670
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:179
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2012-03-09
Last Modified:2017-11-01
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