Fire as a driver of fungal diversity - A synthesis of current knowledge


Fires occur in most terrestrial ecosystems where they drive changes in the traits, composition, and diversity of fungal communities. Fires range from rare, stand-replacing wildfires to frequent, prescribed fires used to mimic natural fire regimes. Fire regime factors, including burn severity, fire intensity, and timing, vary widely and likely determine how fungi respond to fires. Despite the importance of fungi to post-fire plant communities and ecosystem functioning, attempts to identify common fungal responses and their major drivers are lacking. This synthesis addresses this knowledge gap and ranges from fire adaptations of specific fungi to succession and assembly fungal communities as they respond to spatially heterogenous burning within the landscape. Fires impact fungi directly and indirectly through their effects on fungal survival, substrate and habitat modifications, changes in environmental conditions, and/or physiological responses of the hosts with which fungi interact. Some specific pyrophilous, or "fire-loving," fungi often appear after fire. Our synthesis explores whether such taxa can be considered cosmopolitan, and whether they are truly fire-adapted or simply opportunists adapted to rapidly occupy substrates and habitats made available by fires. We also discuss the possible inoculum sources of post-fire fungi and explore existing conceptual models and ecological frameworks that may be useful in generalizing fungal fire responses. We conclude with identifying research gaps and areas that may best transform the current knowledge and understanding of fungal responses to fire.

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