Differential responses of ecosystem components to a low-intensity fire in a Mediterranean forest: a three-year case study

Abstract

Mediterranean forests are especially prone to fire, a periodic disturbance that affects all the ecosystem components in different ways. Gathering knowledge on the particular responses and rate of recovery of multiple ecosystem components following a wildfire is crucial to reliably evaluate its consequences on biodiversity. Using eight sampling transects, we studied the changes in four ecosystem components (topsoil, plants, carabids, and staphylinids) during three years after a spring wildfire in a Quercus pyrenaica forest; and compared them with the surrounding unburnt forest (hereafter control). We found great variety of responses to fire suggesting each component may deal with this recurring disturbance via different adaptations, and that the time spent to recover to pre-disturbance conditions depends on the group of focus. Topsoil characteristics were highly variable and minor differences were found between burnt and control transects. Plant community was considerably affected by fire but rapidly recovered exceeding the control forest in species richness and cover, partly due to proliferation of annual herbs. However, plant species composition differed between burnt and control forests during the whole study period. Carabid beetles were more abundant and richer in species in the burnt forest, thanks to the arrival of seed predators favoured by post-fire drier and warmer conditions. Staphylinid beetle composition differed between control and burnt transects during the whole period, although their abundance was strongly variable. Distinct post-fire plant, carabid and staphylinid species composition suggests scattered low-intensity wildfires in this region may help to maintain habitat heterogeneity benefiting biodiversity at the landscape scale.

Abbreviations

B:

Burnt transect

C:

Control transect

GLMM:

Generalised linear mixed model

PCA:

Principal components analysis

PERMANOVA:

Permutational multivariate analysis of variance

RDA:

Redundancy analysis

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García-Tejero, S., Taboada, Á., Tárrega, R. et al. Differential responses of ecosystem components to a low-intensity fire in a Mediterranean forest: a three-year case study. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 14, 110–120 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.14.2013.1.12

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Keywords

  • Carabids
  • Plant community
  • Quercus pyrenaica forest
  • Staphylinids
  • Topsoil
  • Wildfire