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History matters: previous land use changes determine post-fire vegetation recovery in forested Mediterranean landscapes

Carolina Puerta-Piñero, Josep M. Espelta, Belén Sánchez-Humanes, Anselm Rodrigo, Lluís Coll, Lluís Brotons

Abstract. Land use changes and shifts in disturbance regimes (e.g. wildfires) are recognized worldwide as two of the major drivers of the current global change in terrestrial ecosystems. We expect that, in areas with large-scale land use changes, legacies from previous land uses persist and affect current ecosystem responses to climate-associated disturbances like fire. This study analyses whether post-fire vegetation dynamics may differ according to specific historical land use histories in a Mediterranean forest landscape of about 60,000 ha that was burnt by extensive fires. For that, we assessed land use history of the whole area through the second half of the XXth century, and evaluated the post-fire regeneration success in terms of: (i) forest cover and (ii) tree species composition (biotic-dispersed, resprouter species, Quercus spp. vs. wind-dispersed species with or without fire-resistant seed bank, Pinus spp.). Results showed that stable forest areas exhibited a higher post-fire recovery than younger forests. Furthermore, the longer since crop abandonment translates into a faster post-fire recovery. Results highlight that to anticipate the impacts of disturbances on ecosystems, historical land trajectories should be taken into account.

We analyze whether post-fire vegetation differ according to historical land use changes.
We used ca 60,000 ha that was burnt and land uses through the second half of the XXth.
We evaluated post-fire regeneration success in forest cover and tree species composition.
Stable forest areas exhibited a better post-fire recovery than younger forests.
The longer since crop abandonment translates into a faster post-fire recovery.

Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 279 (September 2012), pp. 121-127, 
Key: INRMM:10837310



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