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Changes in tracheid and ray traits in fire scars of North American conifers and their ecophysiological implications

Formally Refereed
Authors: Estelle Arbellay, Markus Stoffel, Elaine K. Sutherland, Kevin T. Smith, Donald A. Falk
Year: 2014
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Annals of Botany. 114: 223-232.


Fire scars have been widely used as proxies for the reconstruction of fire history; however, little is known about the impact of fire injury on wood anatomy. This study investigates changes in tracheid and ray traits in fire scars of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western larch (Larix occidentalis) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), and discusses their ecophysiological implications for tree recovery from fire. Transverse and tangential microsections were prepared for light microscopy and image analysis. Measurements of tracheids and rays were made in the three spatial dimensions: axially (at different section heights), radially (in different rings) and tangentially (with increasing distance from the wound margin). Changes were strongest in the first year after fire injury, with a decrease in tracheid size (by 25-30 %) and an increase in tracheid density (by 21-53 %)for the three species. In addition, an increase in raysize (by 5-27 %) and an increase in ray density (by 19-36 %)were found in P. menziesii and L. occidentalis. Changes were comparable along the fire-injured stem and were often most marked close to the fire scar. The differentiation after fire injury of narrower and more numerous tracheids expresses a trade-off between hydraulic safety and hydraulic efficiency, while that of larger and more numerous rays serves compartmentalization and wound closure, mechanical strength and defence responses. Pinus ponderosa does not generally produce more ray tissue after fire injury and thus appears to be more adapted to fire.


Ecophysiology, conifer, fire scar, Larix occidentalis, western larch, Pinus ponderosa, ponderosa pine, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Douglas fir, ray, tracheid, wood anatomy


Arbellay, Estelle; Stoffel, Markus; Sutherland, Elaine K.; Smith, Kevin T.; Falk, Donald A. 2014. Changes in tracheid and ray traits in fire scars of North American conifers and their ecophysiological implications. Annals of Botany. 114: 223-232.