Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fire fuels flowers success

Date:
November 8, 2010
Source:
University of Royal Holloway London
Summary:
The high incidence of fire during the Cretaceous Period, 120 to 65 million years ago, was responsible for the spread of the earliest flowering plants, new research suggests.

The high incidence of fire during the Cretaceous Period, 120 to 65 million years ago, was responsible for the spread of the earliest flowering plants, scientists from Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Cape Town claim in new research.

Flowering plants first evolved during the earliest part of the Cretaceous, at a time, that evidence suggests, oxygen levels in the atmosphere were higher than today and the incidence of fire was greater. For most of the Cretaceous, angiosperms were low shrubs, herbs or small trees. The invention of flowers speeded up their life cycle while innovations in the leaf and stem allowed them to grow faster than their competitors. In a sense, early angiosperms were the 'weeds' of the Cretaceous world. So the ecological mystery is how did weedy plants, fast growing and fast reproducing, take over this ancient world?

Now Professor William Bond of the Department of Botany at the University of Cape Town and Professor Andrew C. Scott of the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway have assembled evidence to argue that wildfires were a major factor in the early spread of flowering plants (angiosperms).

Conditions in the Cretaceous were conducive to fires. High atmospheric oxygen (>25% relative to today's 21%) would have promoted fires in wetter vegetation than today. A warmer world would favour convectional storms and the necessary lightning to ignite fires. Seasonal climates provided the necessary dry season when fires could flourish. With these pre-conditions for high fire activity, all that was needed were plants that could generate the fuel to promote frequent fires. Angiosperms, they argue, had the innovations necessary to make the most of conditions conducive to fires. Rapid vegetative growth in the open conditions after a fire, coupled with rapid reproductive rates to reach maturation before the next fire, set up a 'flower-fire' cycle of repeated fires.

"With fire on their side," Professor Bond said, "angiosperms would have been able to penetrate the gymnosperm-dominated forest of the Cretaceous creating their own preferred growing conditions of high light environments."

Professor Bond and Scott suggest that a fire-flower cycle promoted the spread of angiosperms at the expense of slower growing gymnosperms trees by rapid accumulation of fuels. In the 1970s, Bakker suggested that dinosaurs had a similar role in opening up ancient forests providing opportunities for light-demanding angiosperms by 'dinoturbation' and their feeding activity. The widespread occurrence of charcoal in the Cretaceous suggests that flower-fuelled fires were at least as important in opening up forests to the new fast-paced world of the angiosperms.

They also suggest that cycles of high fire activity may have triggered the evolution of novel growth forms in other periods of earth history. They draw parallels to the remarkable spread of tropical grasses creating the vast savannas of today. Here too, fire is implicated in their spread in a new green 'revolution' carving holes into tropical forests over the last 8 million years.

Professor Scott says: "fire has been a neglected process in earth history and now it is time to reassess it's role in shaping our world."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Royal Holloway London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. William J. Bond, Andrew C. Scott. Fire and the spread of flowering plants in the Cretaceous. New Phytologist, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03418.x

Cite This Page:

University of Royal Holloway London. "Fire fuels flowers success." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100907104246.htm>.
University of Royal Holloway London. (2010, November 8). Fire fuels flowers success. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100907104246.htm
University of Royal Holloway London. "Fire fuels flowers success." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100907104246.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
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