Megafire: the Darwinian guillotine?

Dale G. Nimmo*, Chris J. Jolly, Alexandra J. R. Carthey

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Southern Australia’s 2019–20 wildfire season was unprecedented, but the ecological toll remains poorly understood. Estimates of three billion animals being affected by the fires attracted global attention, but how many of those animals succumbed to the flames? A recent systematic review of fire-induced mortality showed that a surprisingly high proportion of vertebrates typically survive fire (>90%), and a growing body of research is demonstrating behavioural adaptations that might facilitate survival during fire. Behaviours that favour survival are likely to be selected for in fire-prone landscapes and could be fine-tuned over time in relation to fire behaviour and specific fire regimes. Megafires that burn vast areas could act as mass selection events, rapidly filtering ‘fire-naive’ individuals from populations. Applying an evolutionary and behavioural lens to fire ecology will provide novel insights that help predict the ramifications of changing fire regimes on animal species.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAustralian Zoologist
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 May 2022

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