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Fire Ecology, 2015
Volume 11, Issue 1

Relative Bark Thickness is Correlated with Tree Species Distributions along a Fire Frequency Gradient
Authors: Jennifer L. Schafer, Bradley P. Breslow, Matthew G. Hohmann, and William A. Hoffmann
Pages: 74-87
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.1101074

The probability of stem survival after fire is strongly influenced by energy allocation to bark because bark thickness affects heat transfer during fire.  Greater relative investment in inner bark versus outer bark should also enhance survival because of greater moisture content of inner bark.  We measured stem diameter, bark thickness, and habitat preference of five species typical of longleaf pine savannas, and six species characteristic of adjacent wetlands (pocosins), and calculated relative bark thickness, the inner bark proportion, radial growth, and bark accumulation of each species.  We hypothesized that savanna species have thicker bark and greater relative investment in inner bark than pocosin species, because fires occur more frequently in savannas than pocosins.  As hypothesized, savanna species have relatively thicker bark than pocosin species.  Relative bark thickness and the rate of bark accumulation were correlated with the mean location of a species along the pocosin-to-savanna gradient.  However, the inner bark proportion did not differ between savanna and pocosin species.  Our results indicate that relative bark thickness is likely the primary bark trait affecting fire-induced topkill and influencing the distribution of species along the pocosin-to-savanna gradient.

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