International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Fuel characteristics and fire behaviour in mature Mediterranean gorse shrublands

Martín De Luis A E , Manuel J. Baeza B , José Raventós C and José C. González-Hidalgo D
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.

B Fundación CEAM, Parque Tecnológico, C/ Charles Darwin, 14, E-46980 Paterna, Valencia, Spain.

C Departamento de Ecología, Universidad de Alicante, Ap. 99, E-03080, Alicante, Spain.

D Departamento de Geografía y Ordenación del Territorio, Universidad de Zaragoza, Plaza San Francisco, s/n, E-50009, Zaragoza, Spain.

E Corresponding author. Present address: Departamento de Ecología, Universidad de Alicante, Ap. 99, E-03080, Alicante, Spain. Telephone: +34 96 590 3732; email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 13(1) 79-87
Submitted: 29 January 2003  Accepted: 30 September 2003   Published: 8 April 2004


Since the early 1990s, Mediterranean gorse shrublands have expanded significantly in the Mediterranean regions of Spain mainly as a result of the increase in the frequency and extension of forest fires. Mediterranean gorse (Ulex parviflorus), which has been described as a degradation stage of forest communities after fire, has also been described as a fire-prone community. Thus, its presence increases the risk that new fires might occur. In spite of this evidence, there is little information on both the composition and structural characteristics of these communities or the relationship that might exist between these vegetation characteristics and fire behaviour. In this paper we present the results of a characterization of the vegetative structure (plant density, specific composition, biomass fractions, and horizontal and vertical fuel distribution) in Mediterranean gorse. We also analyse fire behaviour using indicators obtained at different scales. Our results show mature Mediterranean gorse shrublands to be communities with high biomass values (3000–4000 g m-2) and high horizontal and vertical vegetation continuity, in which the proportion of fine dead fuel fractions with low moisture content is around 50% of the total phytomass present. Ulex parviflorus is the dominant species and its degree of dominance is a key element in the behaviour of fire. Both the fire-line intensity values and the fire severity values observed can be considered high with respect to those observed in other Mediterranean communities, thus confirming Mediterranean gorse as a high-risk community.

Additional keywords: Ulex parviflorus; fire-line intensity; fire severity; fuel structure; specific composition.


We acknowledge the Conselleria de Medio Ambiente (Regional Ministry of the Environment) and especially Ana Tomás and Jorge Suarez for their technical collaboration. Thanks to J. Scheiding for her linguistic revision. We also thank three anonymous referees for valuable comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology (Projects REN2003-07453 and REN2002-01023) and a Postdoctoral contract to De Luis, M. (Ref: EXT2003-0154).


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