Essay Sample on Impacts of Fire in Ecosystems

Published: 2023-08-24
Essay Sample on Impacts of Fire in Ecosystems
Essay type:  Analytical essays
Categories:  Ecology Animals Disaster
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1186 words
10 min read

Fire is an evolutionary process that plays a vital role in the composition and distribution of many ecosystems (Pausas & Jon, 2009). However, this concept contrasts from the original perspective that climate change impacts the evolution of species. Many ancient ecologists overlooked fire as a significant evolution mechanism, but recent studies have portrayed its ecological and evolutionary importance throughout history (Pausas & Jon, 2009). This paper reviews the impacts of fire on biota and its applications to improve the health of ecosystems. The increase in temperatures and the changes in the composition of gases influences the dissemination and content of vital components of the environment, such as plants, animals, soil, and water. Therefore, fire is an integral part of the evolution of life that initiates the origin of species adaptations and their distribution, which improves ecosystems.

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Wildland fires and human-initiated fires have reshaped the biogeography of many landscapes, which impacted their ecosystems. The concept is evident in the genetic adaptation of plant and animal species that sprout after fires.


The spreading of sprouting ability in gymnosperms (Ephedra and Ginkgo biloba) suggests it is an ancient woody plant trait (Pausas & Jon, 2009). In the Northern hemisphere, most gymnosperms cannot sprout due to low-intensity fires in the forests they grow (Pausas & Jon, 2009). In contrast, the few gymnosperms that sprout are elements of crown fires with sure survival above the ground (Pausas & Jon, 2009). In this case, a selective evolutionary mutation developed; hence, gymnosperms with the adaptation can survive catastrophic climatic changes. Foresters use trees with sprouting abilities to ensure the regeneration of forests prone to fires.

Fires produce heat shock waves and chemicals in smoke that trigger the germinations of seeds in wildfire-prone environments (Pausas & Jon, 2009). The adaptive conditions initiate the production of seeds after fires when water and nutrients are adequate. Smoke contains thousands of chemicals that stimulate plant processes, including germination (Pausas & Jon, 2009). For example, some phylogeny of angiosperms in South Africa, Australia, California, and the Mediterranean basin have smoke-stimulated germination, which is a result of convergent evolution (Pausas & Jon, 2009). Tree barks is another adaptation of environmental disturbance (heat and cold). Researchers have found fires to be the cause of thick barks in the genus Pinus (Pausas & Jon, 2009). Consequently, trees serve as natural habitats and sources of food for most animals; thus, their survival is essential for the existence of other living organisms.


The postfire colonization of landscapes by an adjacent population of animals proves to be a crucial aspect in the distribution of species (Belliure et al., 2018). The theory significantly relies on the attributes of the environment, which determine the regeneration of biota. Fires disrupt plant and animal interactions unevenly; thus, affects different species either positively or negatively (Belliure et al., 2018). In some cases, the high temperatures terminate predators while the preys survive, leading to an increase in the population of a particular species of animals in the area. The alteration in the ecosystem is evident through the difference of the biodiversity of burnt and unburnt regions.

Bark insects in temperate and boreal forests are the best example of a known species that benefits from wildfires (Belliure et al., 2018). The insects utilize food resources resulting from fires such as deadwood. Saproxylic beetles move from unburnt areas to the burnt zone through colonization. The beetles have developed morphological fire-adaptations, including infrared detectors essential in post-fire environments (Belliure et al., 2018). The adaptive traits improve their chances of survival and increase their population in the burnt regions. Scientists can artificially control the biota of ecosystems using fires, especially when a particular species of prey are at risk, due to an increase in their predators.


Fires play a vital role in the maintenance of ecology by clearing overgrown plants, reducing soil microbes, and redistribution of nutrients, which improves soil fertility (Dean et al., 2015). The post-fire conditions are favorable for the regeneration of higher species diversity due to less competition and an abundance of nutrient resources. Moreover, low nutrient ecosystems require fire to recycle soil composition and increase the productivity of plants in the region (Dean et al., 2015).

In Florida, the uplands have a low concentration of nutrients; hence, fires are critical to increasing soil fertility (Dean et al., 2015). The soils have few microbes, which need stimulating to recycle nutrients. An increase in the post-fire growth of flowering plants portrays the boost in soil fertility. According to scientists, the burnt regions registered high levels of nitrates compounds in the topsoil (Dean et al., 2015). Florida scrubby woods grow in acidic soils that leach nutrients; hence, microbes are the primary source nutrients. The palmetto and slash pines that dominate the area have developed highly efficient nutrient systems intake to counter the low concentrations of essential mineral compounds (Dean et al., 2015).


Fires alter the composition of land water by the emission of reactive gases and aerosols (Li & Lawrence, 2017). The induced changes in the carbon and nitrogen compounds affect land water and climate. Wildfires also modify the distribution of land water by changing the terrestrial cover in ecosystems (Li & Lawrence, 2017). Throughout history, forest fires have resulted in the depletion of trees in affected regions. In extreme cases, the mortality of whole plants impacts vegetation composition (Li & Lawrence, 2017). The effects slow down the regeneration process of ecosystems due to inadequate water resources necessary for the growth and survival of species.

Human activities utilize fire on a global scale; thus, posing a threat to the sustainability of ecosystems (Pausas & Jon, 2009). Large scale emission of smoke has led to climate change due to a weakened ozone layer. Some regions experience acidic rain, which is toxic to living organisms. Studies show deforestation of land using fire alters rainwater and groundwater (Li & Lawrence, 2017). Consequently, burnt zones resulted in dried natural water bodies and decreased rainfall, which depletes the health of ecosystems.


In summary, fires have a significant impact on the sustainability of many ecosystems. Based on the findings, a variety of plant and animal species have developed adaptive evolutionary traits that have improved their survival in extreme climatic conditions. Ecosystems are dependent on both living and non-living elements; hence, the impacts of fire on soil and water is crucial in the co-existence of species. Despite wildfires altering the composition and distribution of water, the evolutionary adaptations in living organisms make it an integral part of ecosystems and improve the health of environments.


Belliure, J., Mi´nguez, E., & Montagud, S. (2018). Fire benefits flower beetles in a Mediterranean ecosystem. PLoS One, 13(6), 1-15. pone.0198951Dean, S., Farrer, E. C., & Menges, E. S. (2015). Fire effects on soil biogeochemistry in Florida scrubby flatwoods. The American Midland Naturalist, 174(1), 49-64. doi: 10.1674/0003-0031-174.1.49

Li, F., & Lawrence, D. M. (2017). Role of fire in the global land water budget during the twentieth century due to changing ecosystems. Journal of Climate, 30(6), 1893-1908. doi: 10.1175/jcli-d-16-0460.1

Pausas, J. G., & Jon, E. K. (2009), A burning story: The role of fire in the history of life. BioScience, 59(7), 593-601.

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