FIROTIC: Fire and biotic interactions: from mites to pines

FIROTIC: Fuego e interacciones bióticas: de ácaraos a pinos

Funding: Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidad (PGC2018-096569-B-I00), Spanish Government; Period: 1 Jan 2019 - 31 Dec 2021

IP: Juli G Pausas (CIDE, CSIC)

Personnel: Rubén Badenes (ICA-CSIC, Madrid), Arturo Baz (UAH, Madrid), Josabel Belliure (UAH, Madrid), M. Clara Castellanos (Univ. Sussex, UK), Eduardo T. Mezquida (UAM, Madrid), Sergio Montagud (MHN, UV), Juli G Pausas (CIDE-CSIC, Valencia), Vicente Roca (UV, Valencia), Xavier Santos (CIBIO, Univ. Oporto, PT),

PhD students: Lola Álvarez (CIDE-CSIC, Valencia), Carmen Guiote (CIDE-CSIC, Valencia), + to be contracted.

Previous related project: FILAS


In recent years we have learned a great deal about the ecological and evolutionary response of plants to fire, but much less is known about other components of biodiversity. We propose that to improve our understanding of the role of fire on biodiversity we now need to focus on how fire affects animals and the interaction among species, considering both ecological and evolutionary processes. Our general hypothesis is that, in fire-prone ecosystems, fires affect most organisms and modulate the dynamics of biotic interactions and the local biodiversity. Disruptions of negative interactions by fire can be beneficial for the hosts and negative for the guests, and are part of the dynamic system of mediterranean environments in such a way that they shape adaptive traits. We aim to demonstrate this interactive effect between fire, plants, and animals using three biotic interactions where the hosts are common mediterranean species: a lizard (Psamodromus algirus), a shrub (Ulex parviflorus), and a tree (Pinus halepensis). In addition, we explore the role of fire in modifying diversity and species interactions at the community scale. Specifically we predict that:

  • fire may benefit lizards by reducing their parasite load (mites) while lizards need to acquire adaptive traits to survive fires (Task 1);
  • fire may benefit fire-adapted plants (U. parviflorus) by reducing their seed predators (Exapion fasciolatum), but in turn, there is selection on seed predators to quickly recolonise burned areas (Task 2);
  • fire selects for serotiny and precocity in pines, while seed predators (squirrels) select against serotiny (Task 3); and
  • the fire context (burned/unburned, distance to the unburned area) affects insect diversity and the community-scale species interactions in a predictable way (Task 4).
  • The last task is dedicated to knowledge transfer and to contribute to existing biodiversity databases (Task 5).
  • Overall, we aim to demonstrate how fire contributes to assemble and reassemble interactions in mediterranean ecosystems frequently affected by wildfires.