Plant persistence traits in fire-prone ecosystems of the Mediterranean basin: a phylogenetic approach


  • J. G. Pausas,

  • M. Verdú

J. G. Pausas, Centro de Estudios Ambientales del Mediterráneo (CEAM), C/ Charles R. Darwin 14, Parc Tecnològic, ES-46980 Paterna, València, Spain ( – M. Verdú,, Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación (CIDE, CSIC-UV), Camí de la Marjal s/n Apartado Oficial, ES-46470 Albal, València, Spain.


The two main fire response traits found in the Mediterranean basin are the resprouting capacity (R) and the propagule-persistence capacity (P). Previous studies suggested that these two traits might be correlated. In this paper we first test whether R and P have evolved independently. Then, we ask if the correlation occurs because (a) one trait is not the target of selection but it is genetically linked to the other trait which is the one under selection pressure (indirect selection), or (b) because different evolutionary responses to the same selective pressure are acting in parallel on populations at different genetic starting points (parallel selection). Finally, we test to what extent resprouting is associated with some vegetative and reproductive traits.

To answer these questions we used a traits database for the eastern Iberian Peninsula and we assembled the phylogenetic tree on the basis of published information. The results indicate that the two traits are negatively associated and support the parallel selection scenario in which changes in R precedes changes in P. The phylogenetic–informed associations of resprouting with other traits (plant height, age at maturity) support the existence of allocation tradeoffs.

The results are consistent with the biogeographical history of the Mediterranean basin flora where most of lineages already resprouted to persist after a disturbance during the Tertiary, thus making it improbable that an additional costly persistence strategy would evolve under the Quaternary climatic conditions.