Which animals benefit from forest fire?

Some like it hot

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The cones of the North American sequoia can only be opened by the hot air rising from a fire.
The cones of the North American sequoia can only be opened by the hot air rising from a fire.

The effects of forest fires on nature are twofold: On the one hand, the fire rollers, which are difficult to stop, destroy thousands of hectares of forest and bush - including all too often the unique flora and fauna of the tropical rainforests, which are already severely threatened. On the other hand, forest fires are not only destructive fires, they can also bring new life with them. For nature, forest and bush fires are often an irreplaceable and regenerative factor, and many ecosystems have adapted almost perfectly to the regular and naturally occurring fires. After a short time the vegetation recovers and awakens to new life.

Plants that have adapted to fire or even need it are called pyrophytes. They grow in regions where natural fires are common, such as dry forests, steppes, savannahs, and scrub areas. The North American sequoia trees (Sequoia) belong to the plants for which fire is vital because they need it for their reproduction. The giants under the trees actually "wait" for the flames. Only after a fire has passed through and the hot air rises upwards do the cones of the trees, which are sometimes over 100 meters high, open. Then the seeds can fall on the soil freshly fertilized by mineral-rich ash, sink in and begin to germinate. The greatest living creatures on earth also benefit from the fact that many of their competitors are not as fire-resistant as they are, and they burn up. So the huge trees have enough space and light for themselves. The oldest and largest trees in the world have another superlative to offer - they also grow the fastest. And they have to, because the next fire is sure to come and by then they have to be big enough to survive it undamaged.

Same strategy as that Sequoias, also track many species of pine and eucalyptus, as well as the Australian banks. Other plants are simply resistant to fire. These include various pines, Portuguese cork oaks and some palm trees from the African savannah. The Australian eucalyptus forests and the forest and scrubland of Florida have developed into real "forest fire specialists". The eucalyptus trees survive with the help of a fire-conducting surface. Only their scaly bark and the menthol-containing leaves are victims of the flames, the inside of the trees, on the other hand, remains intact. Unfortunately, cacti, for example, do not have such "life insurance". Rather, the water they store starts to boil during a forest fire and shortly afterwards they explode.

In the animal world, too, there are losers and winners in a forest fire. Not all animals can flee quickly enough from the fire rollers in caves, holes or under stones - many small animals in particular are killed. However, around 40 species of insects love fire. Among them is the Australian fire beetle, which always knows where it is burning thanks to a heat-sensitive sensor. The heat radiation from burning wood is the "identification mark" for the sensor. The infrared organ is able to locate such temperature changes over a distance of 60 kilometers. If the sensor reacts, the beetle immediately makes its way to the source of the fire to mate, because the beetle's larvae can only grow in dead wood. In living wood, they would be killed by the resin and crushed by the wood. After mating, the female lays the eggs in the burned tree bark and infects them with a fungus. Three weeks later the bark is penetrated and there is enough dead plant material - food for the beetle offspring.

But also in native forests - more precisely in the pine forests of Brandenburg - a beetle lives that flies on fire. For the black pine jewel beetle, just like for its exotic relatives, fire is the only chance of reproduction.

For many other animals, the flames are also synonymous with a feast. In the savannahs of Africa, storks and birds of prey use burn times to eat. While the storks search the front of the fire for insects stunned by the smoke, the birds of prey circle high above the conflagration to look for animals fleeing in panic and to beat them.

From: geoscience-online.de 2003