Shared fire-survival and fire-persistence traits are found in taxonomically unrelated plant species that commonly grow in fire-prone ecosystems. Such traits include resprouting, after fire has killed the above-ground biomass, and postfire seed release after the death of individual plants. Classification of such traits has led to a change in focus from research on the impact of fire as a disturbance factor on individual species, towards research into plant functional types associated with fire. This has led to a better understanding of the timing and geographic evolution of such traits as either fire-adapted or as a selective response to other disturbance factors. The identification of fire-survival and fire-persistence traits in fire-prone ecosystems is the first focus of this paper. It is followed by a discussion of recent research which offers a critical reappraisal of patch mosaic burning as a means to increase landscape heterogeneity and biodiversity, including the role played by plant functional types in determining diversity. The fire-prone ecosystems of mediterranean-type shrublands and heathlands, savannas and grasslands, and boreal and other coniferous forests are the main geographic focus of the paper.