A comparison of the medieval and the current fire regimes in managed pine forests of Catalonia (NE Spain)

Francisco Lloret, Gerard Marí

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37 Citations (Scopus)


We compared the fire regimes in Mediterranean pine forests during two periods, 1370-1466 and 1966-1996 A.D. Medieval fire regime was estimated from the 'claveria' books of the Tortosa city, which record the city expenditures, including those for fighting fires that were burning in the city forest. We used the amount spent as an estimate of fire magnitude. Current fire regime was estimated for the same area from the local environment agency data bank, which includes date, location and burned area. The mean number of recorded fires per year, which mostly occurred in summer, is not significantly different between the two periods. Time-since-fire distributions of both periods fitted the negative exponential model, and they were not significantly different. The probability of fire occurring within 1-year interval was 0.44 for the 1379-1466 period and 0.46 for the 1966-1996 period. In both cases, small fires were more abundant, although there are some differences in the medieval series, 13% of all documented fires accounted for 47% of the suppression effort, whereas in the 20th century series, one single fire accounted for 88% of the area burned. Analysis of extreme fire also indicates that in the medieval series the largest fire per year needed one or less days of suppression effort in 58% of the years, whereas in the current period, fires were smaller than 1 ha in 78% of the years. We found that fire suppression in the Middle Ages was associated with forest exploitation. Although we cannot compare the two data sets accurately, there is not evidence of differences in fire frequency between the medieval and the current periods. Differences in fire magnitude distributions of both series of records may be explained by the different purposes and technical resources involved in the fire suppression practices. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-163
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2001


  • Fire suppression
  • History
  • Mediterranean
  • Middle Ages
  • Pine forest


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