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Recurrent wildfires constrain long-term reproduction ability in Pinus halepensis Mill.

Josep M. Espelta, Iraima Verkaik, Màrcia Eugenio, Francisco Lloret

Increasing fire recurrence is a major problem threatening Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Moreover, this pattern is predicted to increase owing to global change. Although a reduction in the density and growth of post-fire regeneration is usually observed in recurrently burnt areas, the potential effects on reproductive ability have seldom been explored. The aim of the present study is to investigate whether structural changes induced by fire recurrence may constrain reproduction ability of Pinus halepensis forests. We conducted the current study in Catalonia (NE Spain) in 12 study sites, consisting of two adjacent areas differing in the number of fire events suffered throughout the last 16 years (one v. two fires). Twice-burnt areas showed a lower density of pines, lower pine height and a lower reproductive ability, namely (i) a 3-year delay in the onset of pine reproduction; (ii) a reduction of 52% in the number of reproductive pines; and (iii) a 36% lower mean cone crop per tree. The lower mean cone production per tree coupled with a lower density resulted in an ~80% lower canopy seed bank in twice-burnt areas. These results suggest that the occurrence of a third fire event in twice-burnt areas would severely constrain natural regeneration.


International Journal of Wildland Fire, Vol. 17, No. 5. (2008), 579, https://doi.org/10.1071/wf07078 
Key: INRMM:14403715

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