Vegetation recovery after fuel management in Mediterranean shrublands

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Question: What is the effect of fuel management practices in the recovery capacity of seeder-dominated shrublands?

Location: Ulex parviflorus shrubland localities in Mediterranean regions of eastern Spain.

Methods: We applied prescribed burning and brush-chipping as fuel management techniques in three young and three mature shrublands, and evaluated the effects in the following four years.

Results: Canopy opening by the treatments allowed increasing species richness through the four years of secondary succession. The treatments produced a change in community structure and dominant species, from the woody seeder Ulex parviflorus to the resprouter grass Brachypodium retusum. Vegetation response was conditioned by both shrubland developmental stage and treatment applied. Burning resulted in more severe modification of the ecosystem, increasing bare soil cover. Four years after fuel management in different aged Mediterranean gorse shrublands, vegetation response followed a similar pattern with the exception of the young, brush-chipped shrublands. The treatments applied for controlling Ulex parviflorus were seen to be very effective, with the exception of brush-chipping in young shrublands.

Conclusions: Selective brush-chipping in middle-aged or mature gorse shrublands would combine a drastic reduction in fire hazard with ecosystem conservation and regeneration.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2008

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