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

Successional stage after land abandonment modulates fire severity and post-fire recovery in a Mediterranean mountain landscape

Rosario López-Poma A C , Barron J. Orr B and Susana Bautista A

A Departamento Ecología and IMEM, Apartado 99, Universidad de Alicante, E-03080, Alicante, Spain.

B Office of Arid Lands Studies, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, 1955 E 6th Street, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA.

C Corresponding author: rosario.lp@ua.es

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(7) 1005-1015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF13150
Submitted: 20 December 2012  Accepted: 9 May 2014   Published: 25 August 2014

Abstract

This study analyses the effect of successional stage after farmland terrace abandonment on post-fire plant recovery in a Mediterranean landscape. Specific objectives of the study were to (1) compare fuel characteristics and fire severity in three successional stages after farmland abandonment – dry grassland, dense shrubland and pine stands; (2) analyse the effect of pre-fire successional stage and fire severity on vegetation recovery and (3) analyse the relative vulnerability (i.e. potential for ecosystem shift and soil degradation) to wildfires of the successional stages. We assessed 30 abandoned terraces (15 unburned and 15 burned), with diverse successional stages, on the Xortà Range (south-east Spain). Post-fire recovery was measured 1, 4 and 7 years after fire. The successional stages varied in aboveground biomass, litter amount, vertical structure and continuity of plant cover, and flammability. Dry grassland showed the lowest fire severity, whereas no differences in severity were found between shrubland and pine stands. One year after fire, plant cover was inversely related to fire severity; this relationship attenuated with time after fire. Post-fire recovery of pine stands and shrubland led in both cases to shrublands, contributing to landscape homogenisation. The pine stands showed the largest changes in composition due to fire and the lowest post-fire plant recovery – a sign of high vulnerability to fire.

Additional keywords: abandoned terraces ecosystem vulnerability, Brachypodium retusum, Pinus halepensis, post-fire regeneration, resprouter, seeder, Ulex parviflorus.


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