Feedbacks between fuel reduction and landscape homogenisation determine fire regimes in three Mediterranean areas

Lasse Loepfe, Jordi Martinez-Vilalta, Jordi Oliveres, Josep Piñol, Francisco Lloret

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


In densely populated areas like the Mediterranean, wildfire extent is mostly limited by fire suppression and fuel fragmentation. Fire is known to spread more easily through high fuel loads and homogenous terrain and it is supposed to reduce fuel amount and continuity, creating a negative feedback. Here we combine information from administration fire records, satellite imagery fire scars and land use/cover maps to asses the effects of fire on landscape structure and vice versa for three areas in Catalonia (NE Spain). We worked with three spatial focuses: the actual fire scar, 1 km 2 squares and 10 km 2 squares. In these regions agriculture land abandonment has lead to increased fuel continuity, paralleled by an increment of fire size. We confirm that fire spread is facilitated by land use/cover types with high fuel load and by homogeneous terrain and that fire reduces fuel load by transforming forests into shrublands. But we also found that fire increased landscape homogeneity, creating a positive feedback on fire propagation. We argue that this is possible in landscapes with finer grain than fire alone would create. The lack of discontinuities in the fuel bed diminishes the extinction capacity of fire brigades and increases the risk of large fires. We recommend that fire management should focus more on conservation of the traditional rural mosaic in order to prevent further increases in fuel continuity and fire risk. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2366-2374
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2010


  • Aerial photographs
  • Clustering
  • Fire regime
  • Fragmentation
  • Land abandonment
  • Landscape structure
  • Shrubland encroachment


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