Santos X, Belliure J, Gonçalves JF, Pausas JG


Extreme climate events, together with anthropogenic land-use changes, have led to the rise of megafires (i.e., fires at the top of the frequency size distribution) in many world regions. Megafires imply that the center of the burnt area is far from the unburnt; therefore, recolonization may be critical for species with low dispersal abilities such as reptiles. We aimed to evaluate the effect of megafires on a reptile community, exploring to what extent reptile responses are spatially shaped by the distance to the unburnt area. We examined the short-term spatiotemporal response of a Mediterranean reptile community after two megafires (>20,000 ha) that occurred in summer 2012 in eastern Spain. Reptiles were sampled over 4 years after the fire in burnt plots located at different distances from the fire perimeter (edge, middle, and center), and in adjacent unburnt plots. Reptile responses were modeled with fire history, as well as climate and remotely sensed environmental variables. In total, we recorded 522 reptiles from 12 species (11 species in the burnt plots and nine in the unburnt plots). Reptile abundance decreased in burnt compared with unburnt plots. The community composition and species richness did not vary either spatially (unburnt and burnt plots) or temporally (during the 4 years). The persistence of reptiles in the burnt area supported their resilience to megafires. The most common lizard species was Psammodromus algirus; both adults and juveniles were found in all unburnt and burnt plots. This species showed lower abundances in burnt areas compared with the unburnt and a slow short-term abundance recovery. The lizard Psammodromus edwarsianus was much less abundant and showed a tendency to increase its abundance in burnt plots compared with unburnt plots. Within the megafire area, P. algirus and P. edwarsianus abundances correlated with the thermal–moisture environment and vegetation recovery regardless of the distance from the fire edge. These results indicated the absence of a short-term reptile recolonization from the unburnt zone, demonstrating that reptiles are resilient (in situ persistence) to megafires when environmental conditions are favorable.


Journal: Ecological Applications

Link: 10.1002/eap.2518