Since the 1970s, fire regimes have been modified in the Northern Mediterranean region due to profound landscape changes mostly driven by socioeconomic factors, such as rural abandonment and large-scale plantations. Both fuel accumulation and the increasing vegetation spatial continuity, combined with the expansion of the wildland-urban interface, have enhanced fire risk and the occurrence of large wildfires. This situation will likely worsen under the projected aridity increase resulting from climate change. Higher fire recurrences, in particular, are expected to cause changes in vegetation composition or structure and affect ecosystems’ resilience to fire, which may lead to further land degradation. Prescribed burning is a common fuel reduction technique used for fire prevention, but for conservation and restoration purposes as well. It is still poorly accepted in the Mediterranean region since constrained by critical knowledge gaps about, in particular, its effects on the ecosystems (soil, vegetation). We studied the short-term (10 months) effects on the understory vegetation of a spring prescribed burning conducted in a Pinus halepensis forest in Mediterranean climate (Northeastern Spain). Our results show that the understory plant community recovered after the burning without short term significant changes in either species richness, diversity, or floristic composition. Most vegetation structural characteristics were modified though. The burning strongly reduced shrub height, shrub and herbaceous percentage covers, and aerial shrub phytomass; especially its living fine fraction, thus resulting in a less flammable community. The treatment proved to be particularly effective for the short term control of Ulex parviflorus, a highly flammable seeder species. Moreover, the strong reduction of seeder shrubs frequency in relation to resprouters’ likely promoted the resilience to fire of this plant community. From a fuel-oriented perspective, the burning caused a strong reduction of spatial continuity and surface fuel loads, leading to a less fire-prone fuel complex.
spring understory prescribed burning
|Climate change impacts||Effect of Nbs on CCI||Effect measures|
|Wildfire||Positive||vegetation structural characteristics as indicators of flammability and fire risk including: shrub height and volume, shrub and herbaceous percentage covers, and aerial shrub phytomass (live and dead)|
the Colladetes area (UTM Zone 31N: 304762, 4530927), which is located in the municipal- ity of El Perelló (Southern Catalonia, Northeastern Spain)