Satellite evidence of decreasing resilience in mediterranean plant communities after recurrent wildfires

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223 Citations (Scopus)


Vegetation recovery from fire has been widely studied at the stand level in many types of terrestrial ecosystems, but factors controlling regeneration at the landscape scale are less well known. Over large areas, fire history, climate, topography, and dominant type of vegetation may affect postfire response. Increased fire frequency, as is occurring in some mediterranean-type ecosystems, may reduce ecosystem resilience, i.e., the ability to recover the pre-disturbance state. We used the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from Landsat imagery to monitor vegetation recovery after successive fires in a 32 100-km2 area of Catalonia (northeastern Spain) between 1975 and 1993. In areas burned twice, NDVI patterns indicated that regrowth after 70 mo was lower after the second fire than after the first. This trend was observed several years after burning, but not immediately following fire. Green biomass after the second fire significantly increased with longer intervals of time between fires. There Was also a positive correlation between postfire NDVI and mean rainfall, whereas a negative correlation was found between NDVI and solar radiation. Forests dominated by resprouting Quercus spp. were more resilient to fire, but they showed a larger decrease in resilience after the second fire than did forests dominated by Pinus spp. that regenerate from seed. We conclude that the use of time series satellite images may help to gain further insights in postfire vegetation dynamics over large regions and long time periods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2293-2303
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2002


  • Catalonia
  • Fire regime
  • Landsat
  • Mediterranean Basin
  • Mediterranean plant communities
  • NDVI
  • Normalized Difference Vegetation Index
  • Postfire regeneration
  • Resilience
  • Spain
  • Wildfire


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