Predicting the recovery of Pinus halepensis and Quercus ilex forests after a large wildfire in northeastern Spain

Maria José Broncano, Javier Retana, Anselm Rodrigo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Quercus ilex and Pinus halepensis are two of the most common tree species of the western Mediterranean basin. Both species regenerate reliably after fire: P. halepensis colonizes recently disturbed areas by effective seedling recruitment, while Q. ilex resprouts vigorously after disturbances. For this reason, the natural regeneration of these species after fire should ensure the re-establishment of a forest similar to that which existed before the fire. This study analyzes with a simple simulation model whether or not the relative abundance of monospecific and mixed forests of these species in the landscape is altered by fire. We also analyze the topographic factors and the forest structure before the fire that determine the changes in forest composition after fire. This study has been carried out in a large fire that occurred in NE Spain. Overall, 33% of plots changed to another community type, but this probability of change varied considerably among community types before the fire. Monospecific forests of P. halepensis or Q. ilex had a high probability of remaining in their original composition after the fire, whereas the resilience of mixed forests of these two species was quite low. Mixed forests changed for the most part to monospecific P. halepensis or Q. ilex forests. Analysis of several factors determining these changes indicated that only elevation as a significant topographical variable. The effect of fire was to increase the altitudinal differentiation between the two species. P. halepensis forests that changed to mixed or Q. ilex forests were those of highest elevation, while the mixed and Q. ilex plots that changed to P. halepensis forests were those located at the lowest elevations. Concerning structural variables before fire, density of Q. ilex trees before the fire showed a much greater effect than P. halepensis density in determining the post-fire community. Finally, burn severity also influenced the changes observed. For both P. halepensis and Q. ilex forests, plots that changed to another forest type were mainly those that burned more severely. In the case of mixed forests, even low fire severities involved high probabilities of change to monospecific forests. © Springer 2005.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-56
JournalPlant Ecology
Volume180
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2005

Keywords

  • Burn severity
  • Mediterranean forest
  • Natural regeneration
  • Post-fire recovery
  • Resilience

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