Pine Plantations and Invasion Alter Fuel Structure and Potential Fire Behavior in a Patagonian Forest-Steppe Ecotone

Paritsis, J., et al., 2018. Forests

Original research (primary data)
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Planted and invading non-native plant species can alter fire regimes through changes in fuel loads and in the structure and continuity of fuels, potentially modifying the flammability of native plant communities. Such changes are not easily predicted and deserve system-specific studies. In several regions of the southern hemisphere, exotic pines have been extensively planted in native treeless areas for forestry purposes and have subsequently invaded the native environments. However, studies evaluating alterations in flammability caused by pines in Patagonia are scarce. In the forest-steppe ecotone of northwestern Patagonia, we evaluated fine fuels structure and simulated fire behavior in the native shrubby steppe, pine plantations, pine invasions, and mechanically removed invasions to establish the relative ecological vulnerability of these forestry and invasion scenarios to fire. We found that pine plantations and their subsequent invasion in the Patagonian shrubby steppe produced sharp changes in fine fuel amount and its vertical and horizontal continuity. These changes in fuel properties have the potential to affect fire behavior, increasing fire intensity by almost 30 times. Pruning of basal branches in plantations may substantially reduce fire hazard by lowering the probability of fire crowning, and mechanical removal of invasion seems effective in restoring original fuel structure in the native community. The current expansion of pine plantations and subsequent invasions acting synergistically with climate warming and increased human ignitions warrant a highly vulnerable landscape in the near future for northwestern Patagonia if no management actions are undertaken.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-059-1
  • Intervention type: Restoration
  • Intervention description:

    Invasive species removal: removed (clearcutted) P. contorta invasions

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Wildfire  Positive Fuel load Fire behaviour variables (rate of spread, surface flame length, heat per unit area)
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    northwestern Patagonia, Argentina, on the eastern side of the Andes from 39 550 S to 41 580 S

  • Country: Argentina
  • Habitat/Biome type: Mediterranean shrubs and Forests |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness compared to study plots that have not had invasive species removal AC & BT (coding notes) 5.27.2020 Similar to article 010, this should not be coded as scenario modeling (see coding notes for article 010) essentially what all these studies have is actual data collected on how the intervention affected the ecosystem and based on this data, test using models what the effect on the climate impact then is. In that way they are analogous to the study from mainland china focusing on the effects of the GFG program which collect data on vegetation changes and then use models to calculate effects this change has on soil erosion (these don't actually have data for soil erosion, they use models to calculate it based on the relevant known parameters)
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures:
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures:
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: Yes
  • Experimental evalution done: In-situ/field
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Study is systematic: