Santos X , Bros V, Ros E


Land-use change is considered the main disturbance in landscape structure and composition, directly affecting faunal distribution and species richness worldwide. Wildfires and natural reforestation alter habitat structure in terms of vegetation cover and also in soil composition and moisture; these processes hence trigger habitat transformations that act as opposing forces at small spatial scales. We have explored the contrasting effects of wildfires and natural reforestation on two land-snail species of the genus Xerocrassa, which are endemic in the western Mediterranean. Snails were sampled in pine and Holm oak forest, stony bare slopes and burnt sites. Both species followed a similar pattern: they were present in more than 75% of the stony bare slope sites and around 50% of the burnt sites, but were almost absent in Holm oak forests. The comparison of aerial photographs from 1956 and 2003 showed that stony bare slopes were significantly larger in 1956, this indicating that the natural reforestation might close these habitats, and consequently threaten the viability of the Xerocrassa populations. Given their limited mobility, the presence of Xerocrassa at burnt sites suggests that these species live in small and cryptic populations within the forest, surviving fire and expanding their distribution due to the appearance of adequate habitats. Our study shows that natural reforestation and fire play opposing roles in conserving Xerocrassa populations. The preservation of stony bare slopes as well as other open areas is a key management guideline to maintain landscape mosaics and help future conservation of species of open habitats such as these vulnerable endemic gastropods.


Journal: Contributions to Zoology