Interactions between large high-severity fires and salvage logging on a short return interval reduce the regrowth of fire-prone serotinous forests
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Forest ecology and management, 2018, vol. 414
New fire disturbance regimes under accelerating global environmental change can have unprecedented consequences for ecosystem resilience, lessening ecosystem natural regeneration. In the Mediterranean Basin, fire-dependent obligate seeder forests that are prone to increasingly frequent stand-replacing fires and then salvaged logged repeatedly can be vulnerable to additional disturbances for decades. In this study, we investigated, for the first time, the cumulative and interactive effects of two large high-severity fires at a short (<15-year) return interval and the subsequent burned timber harvesting with biomass removal on the post-disturbance recovery of such forests. We further assessed the type and amount of the material legacies (deadwood) that persisted through the different post-disturbance successional trajectories, as well as the influence of these legacies on forest regeneration. The early recovery of the studied forests after two consecutive large fires and post-fire logging was, in the first place, driven by fire repetition, which led to reduced seedling recruitment and enhanced regrowth of resprouter shrubs. Despite no interactive effects between fire and logging were detected after a single large fire event, two repeated fires followed by salvage harvesting had a greater negative impact than two fires alone (synergistic effects) on seedling establishment; while a lower positive impact (subadditive effects) on the recovery of resprouter shrubs. There was also an interaction modification effect in which fire repetition worsened the per-unit impact of salvage logging on forest regeneration. Nonetheless, the residual legacies, i.e., fine and coarse woody debris (unburned needles, downed branches, pieces of deadwood, and burned pine cones) that remained after the manual harvesting of the burned trees, aided seedling re-establishment and hindered the regrowth of the shrubby understorey. These findings indicate that high-intensity salvage logging after two large high-severity fires at a short return interval is inadvisable in fire-prone serotinous pine forests, unless it explicitly retains the key material legacies that help tree natural regeneration and enhance ecosystem resilience to the next disturbance.
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