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Plant traits – the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants and their organs – determine how primary producers respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, influence ecosystem processes and services and provide a link from species richness to ecosystem functional diversity. Trait data(More)
It is difficult to find references to fire in general textbooks on ecology, conservation biology or biogeography, in spite of the fact that large parts of the world burn on a regular basis, and that there is a considerable literature on the ecology of fire and its use for managing ecosystems. Fire has been burning ecosystems for hundreds of millions of(More)
Until recently, large apex consumers were ubiquitous across the globe and had been for millions of years. The loss of these animals may be humankind's most pervasive influence on nature. Although such losses are widely viewed as an ethical and aesthetic problem, recent research reveals extensive cascading effects of their disappearance in marine,(More)
Stable carbon (d 13 C) and nitrogen (d 15 N) isotope ratios are commonly used to reconstruct palaeodiets and palaeoenvironments. The method is based on our knowledge of isotopic patterns in plants, which are subject to taxonomic and environmental variability. While previous researchers have addressed isotopic variability amongst plants, no studies have(More)
Fire is a worldwide phenomenon that appears in the geological record soon after the appearance of terrestrial plants. Fire influences global ecosystem patterns and processes, including vegetation distribution and structure, the carbon cycle, and climate. Although humans and fire have always coexisted, our capacity to manage fire remains imperfect and may(More)
The intermediate disturbance hypothesis is a widely accepted generalization regarding patterns of species diversity, but may not hold true where fire is the disturbance. In the Mediterranean-climate shrublands of South Africa, called fynbos, fire is the most importance disturbance and a controlling factor in community dynamics. The intermediate disturbance(More)
The origin of fire-adapted lineages is a long-standing question in ecology. Although phylogeny can provide a significant contribution to the ongoing debate, its use has been precluded by the lack of comprehensive DNA data. Here, we focus on the 'underground trees' (=geoxyles) of southern Africa, one of the most distinctive growth forms characteristic of(More)
The evolution of grasses using C4 photosynthesis and their sudden rise to ecological dominance 3 to 8 million years ago is among the most dramatic examples of biome assembly in the geological record. A growing body of work suggests that the patterns and drivers of C4 grassland expansion were considerably more complex than originally assumed. Previous(More)
Humans and their ancestors are unique in being a fire-making species, but 'natural' (i.e. independent of humans) fires have an ancient, geological history on Earth. Natural fires have influenced biological evolution and global biogeo-chemical cycles, making fire integral to the functioning of some biomes. Globally, debate rages about the impact on(More)
Ecologists have long sought to understand the factors controlling the structure of savanna vegetation. Using data from 2154 sites in savannas across Africa, Australia, and South America, we found that increasing moisture availability drives increases in fire and tree basal area, whereas fire reduces tree basal area. However, among continents, the magnitude(More)