Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): J. Morgan Varner; Sharon M. Hood; Doug P. Aubrey; Kara Yedinak; J. Kevin Hiers; W. Matthew Jolly; Timothy M. Shearman; Jennifer K. McDaniel; Joseph J. O'Brien; Eric M. Rowell
    Date: 2021
    Source: New Phytologist. 231: 1676-1685.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (2.0 MB)


    The dead foliage of scorched crowns is one of the most conspicuous signatures of wildland fires. Globally, crown scorch from fires in savannas, woodlands and forests causes tree stress and death across diverse taxa. The term crown scorch, however, is inconsistently and ambiguously defined in the literature, causing confusion and conflicting interpretation of results. Furthermore, the underlying mechanisms causing foliage death from fire are poorly understood. The consequences of crown scorch – alterations in physiological, biogeochemical and ecological processes and ecosystem recovery pathways – remain largely unexamined. Most research on the topic assumes the mechanism of leaf and bud death is exposure to lethal air temperatures, with few direct measurements of lethal heating thresholds. Notable information gaps include how energy transfer injures and kills leaves and buds, how nutrients, carbohydrates, and hormones respond, and what physiological consequences lead to mortality. We clarify definitions to encourage use of unified terminology for foliage and bud necrosis resulting from fire. We review the current understanding of the physical mechanisms driving foliar injury, discuss the physiological responses, and explore novel ecological consequences of crown injury from fire. From these elements, we propose research needs for the increasingly interdisciplinary study of fire effects.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Varner, J. Morgan; Hood, Sharon M.; Aubrey, Doug. P.; Yedinak, Kara; Hiers, J. Kevin; Jolly, W. Matthew; Shearman, Timothy M.; McDaniel, Jennifer K.; O'Brien, Joseph J.; Rowell, Eric M. 2021. Tree crown injury from wildland fires: Causes, measurement and ecological and physiological consequences. New Phytologist. 231: 1676-1685.


    Google Scholar


    convection, crown scorch, energy dose, fire effects, leaves, plant hydraulics, post-fire tree mortality, tree stress

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page