Muñoz A, Felicísimo AM, Santos X




At the landscape scale, the Mediterranean region is a mosaic of habitats occupied by plants and animals with different resilience to fire. One of these habitats, the pine plantation, is characterized by its structural simplification and susceptibility to fire. Despite its high flammability, few studies have compared the response of animal communities between pine plantations and other autochthonous woodlands. For five years after a large fire in southwestern Europe, we surveyed reptiles in two natural habitats (oak forest, scrubland) and a pine plantation managed with salvage logging, a post-fire practice which consists of the complete harvesting and removal of death burnt trees. Reptile abundance and species composition were examined to assess differences in the reptile community between these habitats. Differences between burnt and unburnt transects were limited to the first year after the fire, while, over the entire five-year period, differences in species composition and abundance were due to vegetation type instead of fire. The pine logged area showed a delay in the recovery of vegetation and also in the appearance of many reptile species after the fire. At the reptile species level, we found evidence of both positive responses to fire (for lizards with high heliothermic activity) and negative ones (for specialist snake species). Overall, our results confirm the resilience of the reptile community to fire. The mosaic of habitats in the Mediterranean region and the openness caused by fire can increase the reptile biodiversity (landscape- plus pyro-diversity effects), but some practices such as salvage logging coupled with fire regime shifts (larger and more frequent fires) can compromise the conservation of the biodiversity in fire-prone regions.


Journal: Forests

DOI: 10.3390/f12111487