The role of fire frequency and severity on the regeneration of Mediterranean serotinous pines under different environmental conditions
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Forest Ecology and Management, 2019, vol.444
Fire frequency and burn severity may increase in pine forests in the Mediterranean Basin under the warmer and drier climate projected for this region. Our study aims to evaluate the role of fire frequency and burn severity in the post-fire recruitment and development of Mediterranean serotinous pines under different environmental conditions. Two pine forests representing contrasting climatic conditions and soil types that support serotinous pines in the Iberian Peninsula and affected by large wildfires in summer 2012, were selected. In these two study sites, we determined the number of wildfires between 1978 and 2012 and the burn severity of the last fire (2012 at both sites) through the dNBR spectral index. Three and four years after the wildfires, we sampled the density, cover and height of pine seedlings and the cover of woody understory species in 1296 1 m2 plots. The results indicated that the density and cover of pine seedlings was low after two fires combined with high severities, as well as after three fires, regardless of burn severity. Seedling recruitment after three fires was particularly threatened in the most arid study site (0.01 seedlings m−2), resulting in low seedling cover (0.01%). Seedling height decreased with fire frequency in both study sites, and with burn severity owing to fire-induced shifts in soil fertility and microclimatic conditions. There was a significant negative effect of the cover of woody understory species on the recruitment and cover of pine seedlings. Our results suggest that the effects of increasing fire frequency and severity on pine regeneration may be aggravated under arid conditions. Additionally, this study encourages forest managers to avoid the occurrence of frequent crown fires in order to prevent the loss of serotinous pine forest, and provides useful information to predict the scenarios in which post-fire restoration actions would be helpful.
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