Welcome to the Pyrocene: animal survival in the age of megafire

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15834. This is version 3 of this Preprint.

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Dale Nimmo, Alexandra Carthey, Chris Jolly, Daniel T. Blumstein


Planet Earth is entering the age of megafire, pushing ecosystems to their limits and beyond. While fire causes mortality of animals across vast portions of the globe, scientists are only beginning to consider fire as an evolutionary force in animal ecology. Here, we generate a series of hypotheses regarding animal responses to fire by adopting insights from the predator-prey literature. Fire is a lethal threat, thus there is likely strong selection for animals to recognise the olfactory, auditory, and visual cues of fire, and deploy anti-fire responses that maximise survival probability. If fire defences are costly, it follows that intraspecific variation in anti-fire traits should correspond with variation in fire behaviour and regimes. Species and populations inhabiting ecosystems that rarely experience fire may lack these traits, placing ‘fire naïve’ populations and species at enhanced extinction risk as the distribution of fire extends into new ecosystem types. We outline a research agenda to understand behavioural responses to fire and to identify conservation interventions that could be used to overcome fire naivety.




Behavior and Ethology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


chemical ecology, Fire ecology, megafire, predator ecology, pyrocene, wildfire, wildlife


Published: 2021-04-10 10:53

Last Updated: 2021-08-12 04:43

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