Divergent fire regimes in two contrasting Mediterranean chestnut forest landscapes
Publication: Springer Link
Humans have historically played a critical role in the management of Mediterranean-type ecosystems (MTEs) through traditional fire use. Although chestnut forests are widespread across the Mediterranean Basin, little is known about their historical fire regimes. Our goal here is to generate testable hypotheses about the drivers of fire regime dynamics in chestnut dominated ecosystems. To examine anthropogenic fire management we selected two sites in Spain that have similar biophysical characteristics but divergent levels of economic development and fire management policies. Fire regime-landscape feedbacks were characterized through a pilot dendroecological study, official fire statistics, aerial photography and forest inventory data. Our results suggest that fire incidence in both sites has increased since the pre-industrial era but fire season, fire size, and forest structure have changed to a greater extent in the more developed site. These changes are probably driven by the decline in annual anthropogenic burning of litterfall by local communities at the more developed site during the non-vegetative season.