Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Smoke Breathes New Life Into A Forest

Date:
October 14, 1998
Source:
Ecological Society Of America
Summary:
To the dismay of many Californians, and most recently Floridians, nearly every summer it happens. Trees alight in a fiery blaze, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage, displaced families, and in some instances the loss of life. All that's left after the last ember dies out is a charred, skeleton forest. Yet the next generation of forest lies beneath the scorched soil as once dormant seeds are awakened.

Scientists Investigate Smoke As Trigger For Seed Germination

To the dismay of many Californians, and most recently Floridians, nearly every summer it happens. Trees alight in a fiery blaze, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage, displaced families, and in some instances the loss of life. All that's left after the last ember dies out is a charred, skeleton forest. Yet the next generation of forest lies beneath the scorched soil as once dormant seeds are awakened. In the October issue of Ecology, scientists investigate the mechanisms behind fire-triggered seed germination, and focus specifically on the role of smoke.

Scientists have previously reported that heat shock and charred wood induce germination in dormant seeds. In their study of California chaparral, Jon E. Keeley, of the USGS Biological Resources Division, and C. J. Fotheringham, of California State University, show that smoke also triggers germination in deeply dormant seeds.

Keeley and Fotheringham compared seed characteristics of species stimulated by smoke to those stimulated by heat shock, and the different mechanisms behind germination. Seeds that germinate after exposure to smoke are distinctly different from those that do not:

* outer seed coats are highly textured * have a poorly developed outer cuticle * are missing dense tissue in the coat of the seed * have a membrane which allows water to pass through but not larger particles

Smoke triggers germination directly by penetrating the seed, as well as indirectly, by vapor or liquid transfer from soil to seeds. The scientists found, within the smoke-stimulated plants, that a variety of factors trigger germination. Such factors are: charred wood, Nitrogen dioxide, duration of exposure to smoke, soil content and moisture level, and the influence of day and night. In some species, exposure to smoke alone was enough to cause a seed to germinate. In others, a combination of factors was necessary for germination to take place. Keeley and Fotheringham conclude that the different responses triggered among plants may suggest fire behavior has an important ecological impact on postfire communities by influencing which plants will prosper and reclaim the land.

October's issue of Ecology also highlights the effects of large mammals on soil nutrient movements.

In one such article, M. Ben-David and colleagues of the University of Alaska and Oregon State University explore the effects of scent-marking behavior of river otters on surrounding terrestrial plants in south-central Alaska. River otters deposit urine and feces at specific sites along the coast, known as latrines. The researchers found that plants at latrine sites had larger concentrations of Nitrogen than those off site. They also discovered that the concentration of Nitrogen in plants located in latrines matched the concentration of fish in the otters' diet. By enriching the soil with Nitrogen (fertilization), the researchers believe that river otters may influence the plant community composition.

###Founded in 1915, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) is a scientific, non-profit, organization with over 7000 members. Through ESA reports, journals, membership research, and expert testimony to Congress, ESA seeks to promote the responsible application of ecological data and principles to the solution of environmental problems. ESA publishes four scientific, peer-reviewed journals: Ecology, Ecological Applications, Ecological Monographs, and Conservation Ecology. For more information about the Society and its activities, access our web site at: http://esa.sdsc.edu


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society Of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecological Society Of America. "Smoke Breathes New Life Into A Forest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981014070751.htm>.
Ecological Society Of America. (1998, October 14). Smoke Breathes New Life Into A Forest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981014070751.htm
Ecological Society Of America. "Smoke Breathes New Life Into A Forest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981014070751.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — South Koreans eat more instant ramen noodles per capita than anywhere else in the world. But American researchers say eating too much may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins