Does helimulching after severe wildfire affect vegetation recovery in a coastal area of Northwest Spain?
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Helimulching is commonly applied after high-severity wildfires in North America because of its effectiveness in reducing post-fire runoff and erosion. However, its use in other parts of the world is still very limited and information about its effects in different environments is scarce. In this study, the effects of helimulching on vegetation recovery and species composition were assessed in 70 experimental plots (80 m2 each) established in five shrubland areas in Northwest Spain affected by wildfire in summer 2013. The effects on shrub, forb, fern and grass cover, and on total vegetation cover, as well as on species richness, Shannon diversity index and heterogeneity were studied over the 2 years following the fire. The impacts of soil burn severity and mulch depth on these variables were also considered. Overall, the mulching treatment had little effect on the cover variables. Although it had a positive effect on forb cover, these species represented only a small portion of the total vegetation cover. Soil burn severity was not a significant factor in explaining the variation in the variables under study. The treatment had a low impact on species composition. In the mulched plots only three non-native species were recorded and these displayed a limited capacity to act as invasive species as they were absent at the end of the period of study. The results indicate that helimulching is a feasible soil stabilization treatment with neutral effects on vegetation cover and the composition of shrubland in coastal areas of Northwest Spain.
KeywordsStraw mulch Vegetation diversity Soil burn severity Non-native species
The study was funded by the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Spain through project RTA2014-00011-C06-02, cofunded by FEDER, the Plan de Mejora e Innovación Forestal de Galicia (2010–2020) and INDITEX. We are grateful to everyone who helped with the fieldwork, particularly José Gómez, Jesús Pardo, Emilia Puga and José Ramón González. We sincerely acknowledge the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The experiments comply with the current laws in Spain.
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