Responses of Mediterranean Plant Species to different fire frequencies in Garraf Natural Park (Catalonia, Spain): Field observations and modelling predictions

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Dynamics of the coexisting Mediterranean species Pinus halepensis, Quercus coccifera, Erica multiflora, Rosmarinus officinalis, Cistus albidus, C. salviifolius and Ampelodesmos mauritanica, with contrasted life history traits have been studied under different fire scenarios, following two approaches: a) field survey in areas with three different fire histories (unburned for the last 31 years, once burned in 1982, and twice burned in 1982 and 1994), and b) simulations with different fire recurrence using the FATE vegetation model. We compared observed abundance in the field survey to simulation outputs obtained from fire scenarios that mimicked field fire histories. Substantial mismatching did not occur between field survey and simulations. Higher fire recurrences were associated with an increase in the resprouting Ampelodesmos grass, together with a decrease in Pinus abundance. Resprouting shrubs did not show contrasting changes, but trends of increase in Quercus and decrease in Erica were observed. The seeders Rosmarinus and Cistus achieved maximum abundance at intermediate fire recurrence. We also performed ten 200 year simulations of increasing fire recurrence with average times between fires of 100, 40, 20, 10, and 5 years. A scenario without fire was also simulated. High fire recurrence produces an increase in Ampelodesmos, a grass which is becoming dominant in the area, and a small increase in Erica, but Quercus abundance decreases and Pinus disappears. Rosmarinus and Cistus abundance peaks at intermediate fire frequencies. When comparing these simulations to those in which Ampelodesmos was excluded, we found that the absence of the grass only increased Cistus occurrence in the community, this effect being more important at frequent fire recurrence. The study suggests that simple models based on life history traits may be useful in interpreting plant community dynamics in Mediterranean ecosystems that are greatly influenced by differences in the fire regime.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-235
JournalPlant Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2003


  • Ampelodesmos mauritanica
  • Fire recurrence
  • Model
  • Resprouting
  • Simulation


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