Fire adaptations in the Canary Islands pine (Pinus canariensis)
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- Climent, J., Tapias, R., Pardos, J.A. et al. Plant Ecology (2004) 171: 185. doi:10.1023/B:VEGE.0000029374.64778.68
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A wide set of phenotypic characteristics related to life history were studied in mature stands of Pinus canariensis throughout its natural range of distribution in the Canary archipelago. Natural forests ranging from those located in xeric areas through to the sub-tropical cloud forests and high mountain stands were classified into eight ecological regions according to their main climatic features. The recent history of forest fires (covering the last 30 years) was taken into account using a categorical factor with three levels. The phenotypic variables studied included those related to seed dispersal (cone size, number of seed scales, seed and wing size and percentage of serotinous trees) and stem growth both on the breast height section (bark thickness, radial growth at various ages and sapwood and heartwood sizes) and on the entire stem (height growth related to age). The average percentage of serotinous trees present in the ecological regions studied varied from 3 to 35%. Average bark thickness in adult trees ranged from 22 to 49 mm and was found to be unrelated to age or diameter. Growth both in height and diameter was found to decline after an average of 25 years, although clear trends in relation to this could not be established across the ecological regions. A high correlation was found to exist between annual rainfall, fire frequency, serotiny and bark thickness at a regional level. Sapwood area per hectare proved to be a valuable indirect site-quality index for the objectives of this paper. Favourable sites (characterised by a high sapwood area per hectare) displayed the highest levels of both bark thickness and serotiny. These particular areas are those, which have suffered more frequent and intense fires over the last decades. The evolutionary implications of this trend and of other general traits of the species, such as vegetative resprouting, are discussed here in relation to the role of understorey vegetation in fire regimes, competition and volcanic history of the islands.