Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 12, pp 2669–2691 | Cite as

Long-term consequences of mechanical fuel management for the conservation of Mediterranean forest herb communities

Original Paper

Abstract

Mechanical clearing of understory vegetation is increasingly used in Euro-Mediterranean forests to reduce fire hazard, yet its long-term consequences for biodiversity remain poorly understood. This study analysed the influence of time since understory management and management frequency, on herbaceous species richness, cover and composition, functional richness and composition, and richness and cover within functional groups (life and growth forms, dispersal strategy, clonality, and plant height), using a chronosequence of cork oak (Quercus suber) stands spanning about 70 years. Overall species richness was virtually constant over time, but the richness of species with annual life form and plasticity in height was much higher in recently and recurrently treated stands; the opposite was found for perennial (mainly hemicryptophytes and chamaephytes), tussock-forming and clonal species richness, and functional richness. Overall herbaceous cover and that of annual, semi-basal, non-clonal and plastic species (in height) were favoured by recent and recurrent fuel treatments; cover by perennial (hemicryptophytes and chamaephytes), short basal, tussock-forming, and clonal species tended to increase for >10–20 years after management, and declined with management frequency. There was a marked shift in species and functional composition associated with time since understory management and management frequency. These findings suggest that widespread fuel management at <10 year intervals may shift understory herb communities to early-successional stages, impairing the persistence of species and functional groups recovering slowly after disturbance. Fuel management needs to balance the dual goals of fire hazard reduction and biodiversity conservation, retaining undisturbed patches in landscapes otherwise managed to reduce fuel accumulation.

Keywords

Disturbance ecology Ecological succession Forest management Landscape mosaics Mediterranean plant communities 

Supplementary material

10531_2011_98_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (890 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 889 kb)

References

  1. Acácio V, Holmgren M, Rego F, Moreira F, Mohren GMJ (2009) Are drought and wildfires turning Mediterranean cork oak forest into persistent shrublands? Agrofor Syst 76:389–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agee JK, Skinner CN (2005) Basic principles of forest fuel reduction treatments. For Ecol Manag 211:83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aikens ML, Ellum D, McKenna JJ, Kelty MJ, Ashton MS (2007) The effects of disturbance intensity on temporal and spatial patterns of herb colonization in a southern New England mixed-oak forest. For Ecol Manag 252:144–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Albrecht MA, McCarthy BC (2009) Seedling establishment shapes the distribution of shade-adapted forest herbs across a topographical moisture gradient. J Ecol 97:1037–1049CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aparicio A, Albaladejo RG, Olalla-Tárraga MA, Carrillo LF, Rodríguez MA (2008) Dispersal potentials determine responses of woody plant species richness to environmental factors in fragmented Mediterranean landscapes. For Ecol Manag 255:2894–2906CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aronson J, Pereira JS, Pausas J (2009) Cork oak woodlands on the edge: ecology, biogeography, and restoration of an ancient Mediterranean ecosystem. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  7. Beja P, Pais M, Palma L (2007) Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus habitats in Mediterranean scrubland: the role of scrub structure and composition. Wildl Biol 13:28–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bellemare J, Motzkin G, Foster DR, Forest H (2002) Legacies of the agricultural past in the forested present: an assessment of historical land-use effects on rich mesic forests. J Biogeogr 29:1401–1420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bengtsson J, Nilsson SG, Franc A, Menozzi P (2000) Biodiversity, disturbances, ecosystem function and management of European forests. For Ecol Manag 132:39–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blondel J, Aronson J, Bodiou J-Y, Boeuf G (2010) The Mediterranean region. Biological diversity in space and time. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  11. Bochet E, García-Fayos P, Poesen J (2009) Topographic thresholds for plant colonization on semi-arid eroded slopes. Earth Surf Proc Land 34:1758–1771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bonet A, Pausas J (2004) Species richness and cover along a 60-year chronosequence in old-fields of southeastern Spain. Plant Ecol 174:257–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brunet J (2007) Plant colonization in heterogeneous landscapes: an 80-year perspective on restoration of broadleaved forest vegetation. J Appl Ecol 44:563–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bugalho MN, Plieninger T, Aronson J, Ellatifi M, Crespo DG (2009) Open woodlands: a diversity of uses (and overuses). In: Aronson J, Pereira JS, Pausas J (eds) Cork oak woodlands on the edge: ecology, biogeography, and restoration of an ancient Mediterranean ecosystem. Island Press, Washington DC, pp 33–45Google Scholar
  15. Callaway RM, Pennings SC, Richards CL (2003) Phenotypic plasticity and interactions among plants. Ecology 84:1115–1128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Calvo L, Tárrega R, Luis E (2002) Secondary succession after perturbations in a shrubland community. Acta Oecol 23:393–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Calvo L, Tárrega R, Luis E, Valbuena L, Marcos E (2005) Recovery after experimental cutting and burning in three shrub communities with different dominant species. Plant Ecol 180:175–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Converse SJ, White GC, Farris KL, Zack S (2006) Small mammals and forest fuel reduction: National-scale responses to fire and fire surrogates. Ecol Appl 16:1717–1729PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cornelissen JH, Lavorel S, Garnier E, Díaz S, Buchmann N, Gurvich DE, Reich PB, Steege HT, Morgan HD, Heijden MG, Pausas JG, Poorter H (2003) A handbook of protocols for standardised and easy measurement of plant functional traits worldwide. Aust J Bot 51:335–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De La Montaña E, Rey-Bernayas JM, Carrascal LM (2006) Response of bird communities to silvicultural thinning of Mediterranean maquis. J Appl Ecol 43:651–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Decocq G, Aubert M, Dupont F, Alard D, Saguez R, Wattez-Franger A, Foucault B, Delelis-Dusollier A, Bardat J (2004a) Plant diversity in a managed temperate deciduous forest: understorey response to two silvicultural systems. J Appl Ecol 41:1065–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Decocq G, Valentin B, Toussaint B, Hendoux F, Saguez R, Bardat J (2004b) Soil seed bank composition and diversity in a managed temperate deciduous forest. Biodivers Conserv 13:2485–2509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Díaz-Delgado R, Lloret F, Pons X, Terradas JJ (2002) Satellite evidence of decreasing resilience in Mediterranean plant communities after recurrent wildfires. Ecology 83:2293–2303Google Scholar
  24. Díaz-Villa MD, Marañón T, Arroyo J, Garrido B (2003) Soil seed bank and floristic diversity in a forest-grassland mosaic in southern Spain. J Veg Sci 14:701–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dölle M, Schmidt W (2009) The relationship between soil seed bank, above-ground vegetation and disturbance intensity on old-field successional permanent plots. Applied Vegetation Science 12:415–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Feio M (1949) Le Bas Alentejo et l’Algarve (Livret-Guide de l’Excursion E). XVI Congrès Internationale de Géographie. CEG, LisbonGoogle Scholar
  27. Flinn KM, Vellend M (2005) Recovery of forest plant communities in post-agricultural landscapes. Front Ecol Environ 3:243–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Foster BL, Tilman D (2000) Dynamic and static views of succession: testing the descriptive power of the chronosequence approach. Plant Ecol 146:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Frelich LE (2002) Forest dynamics and disturbance regimes. Studies from temperate evergreen-deciduous forests. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Guerreiro MG (1951) Valorização da Serra Algarvia: a erosão, a cobertura vegetal e a água. Direcção Geral dos Serviços Florestais e Aquícolas, LisbonGoogle Scholar
  31. Hampe A, Arroyo J (2002) Recruitment and regeneration in populations of an endangered South Iberian Tertiary relict tree. Biol Conserv 107:263–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hastie TJ, Tibshirani RJ (1990) Generalized additive models. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson EA, Miyanishi K (2008) Testing assumptions of chronosequences in succession. Ecol Lett 11:419–431PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krohmer J, Deil U (2003) Dynamic and conservative landscapes? Present vegetation cover and land-use changes in the Serra de Monchique (Portugal). Phytocoenologia 33:767–799Google Scholar
  35. Kuuluvainen T (2009) Forest management and biodiversity conservation based on natural ecosystem dynamics in northern Europe: the complexity challenge. Ambio 38:309–315PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lavorel S, McIntyre S, Landsberg J, Forbes TDA (1997) Plant functional classifications: from general groups to specific groups based on response to disturbance. Trends Ecol Evol 12:474–478PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lehmkuhl JF, Kennedy M, Ford ED, Singleton PH, Gaines WL, Lind RL (2007) Seeing the forest for the fuel: Integrating ecological values and fuels management. For Ecol Manag 246:73–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lindenmayer DB, Franklin JF, Fischer J (2006) General management principles and a checklist of strategies to guide forest biodiversity conservation. Biol Conserv 131:433–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mabry CM, Fraterrigo J (2009) Species traits as generalized predictors of forest community response to human disturbance. For Ecol Manag 257:723–730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Malo JE, Suárez F (1995) Herbivorous mammals as seed dispersers in a Mediterranean dehesa. Oecologia 104:246–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marañon T, Ajbilou R, Ojeda F, Arroyo J (1999) Biodiversity of woody species in oak woodlands of southern Spain and northern Morocco. For Ecol Manag 115:147–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Massada AB, Carmel Y, Koniak G, Noy-Meir I (2009) The effects of disturbance based management on the dynamics of Mediterranean vegetation: a hierarchical and spatially explicit modeling approach. Ecol Model 220:2525–2535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McIntyre S, Lavorel S, Tremont R (1995) Plant life-history attributes: their relationship to disturbance response in herbaceous vegetation. J Ecol 83:31–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Millington JDA, Wainwright J, Perry GLW, Romero-Calcerrada R, Malamud BD (2009) Modelling Mediterranean landscape succession-disturbance dynamics: a landscape fire-succession model. Environ Model Softw 24:1196–1208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Moreira F, Duarte I, Catry F, Acácio V (2007) Cork extraction as a key factor determining post-fire cork oak survival in a mountain region of southern Portugal. For Ecol Manag 253:30–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Moreira F, Catry F, Duarte I, Acácio V, Silva JS (2009) A conceptual model of sprouting responses in relation to fire damage: an example with cork oak (Quercus suber L.) trees in Southern Portugal. Plant Ecol 201:77–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ojeda F, Marañón T, Arroyo J (2000) Plant diversity patterns in the Aljibe Mountains (S. Spain): a comprehensive account. Biodivers Conserv 9:1323–1343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Oksanen J, Kindt R, Legendre P, O’Hara B, Simpson GL, Solymos P, Stevens MHH, Wagner H (2009) Vegan: community ecology package. R package version 1.15-2. http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/vegan/index.html. Cited 9 Dec 2010
  49. Palma L, Beja P, Rodrigues M (1999) The use of sighting data to analyse Iberian lynx habitat and distribution. J Appl Ecol 36:812–824CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Palma L, Beja P, Pais M, Fonseca LC (2006) Why do raptors take domestic prey? The case of Bonelli’s eagles and pigeons. J Appl Ecol 43:1075–1086CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Paula S, Arianoutsou M, Kazanis D, Tavsanoglu Ç, Lloret F, Buhk C, Ojeda F, Luna B, Moreno JM, Rodrigo A, Espelta JM, Palacio S, Fernández-Santos B, Fernandes PM, Pausas JG (2009) Fire-related traits for plant species of the Mediterranean Basin. Ecology 90:1420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pausas JG, Llovet J, Rodrigo A, Vallejo R (2008) Are wildfires a disaster in the Mediterranean basin? – a review. Int J Wildland Fire 17:713–723Google Scholar
  53. Perchemlides KA, Muir PS, Hosten PE (2008) Responses of chaparral and oak woodland plant communities to fuel-reduction thinning in Southwestern Oregon. Rangel Ecol Manag 61:98–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pérez-Ramos IM, Zavala MA, Marañón T, Díaz-Villa MD, Valladares F (2008) Dynamics of understorey herbaceous plant diversity following shrub clearing of cork oak forests: a five-year study. For Ecol Manag 255:3242–3253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Petchey OL, Gaston KJ (2006) Functional diversity: back to basics and looking forward. Ecol Lett 9:741–758PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Poorter H, Lambers H (1986) Growth and competitive ability of a highly plastic and marginally plastic genotype of Plantago major in a fluctuating environment. Physiol Plant 67:217–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Potts JB, Marino E, Stephens SL (2010) Chaparral shrub recovery after fuel reduction: a comparison of prescribed fire and mastication techniques. Plant Ecol 210:303–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Quilchano C, Marañón T, Pérez-Ramos IM, Noejovich L, Valladares F, Zavala MA (2008) Patterns and ecological consequences of abiotic heterogeneity in managed cork oak forests of Southern Spain. Ecol Res 23:127–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rivas-Martínez S, Lousã M, Díaz TE, Fernández-González F, Costa JC (1990) La vegetatión del Sur de Portugal (Sado, Alentejo y Algarve). Itinera Geobotánica 3:5–126Google Scholar
  60. Rodrigo A, Retana J, Picó FX (2004) Direct regeneration is not the only response of Mediterranean forests to large fires. Ecology 85:716–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Santana J, Porto M, Reino L, Beja P (2011) Long-term understory recovery after mechanical fuel reduction in Mediterranean cork oak forests. For Ecol Manag 261:447–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Santos MJ, Thorne JH (2010) Comparing culture and ecology: conservation planning of oak woodlands in Mediterranean landscapes of Portugal and California. Environ Conserv 37:155–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Seng M, Deil U (1999) Forest vegetation types in the serra de Monchique (Portugal): Anthropogenic changes of oak forests. Silva Lusitana 7:71–92Google Scholar
  64. Stephens SL, Moghaddas JJ, Ediminster C, Fiedler CE, Hasse S, Harrington M, Keeley JE, McIver JD, Metlen K, Skinner CN, Youngblood A (2009) Fire treatment effects on vegetation structure, fuels, and potential fire severity in western U.S. forests. Ecol Appl 19:305–320PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thomas PA, Packham JR (2007) Ecology of woodlands and forests. Description, dynamics and diversity. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  66. Torras O, Saura S (2008) Effects of silvicultural treatments on forest biodiversity indicators in the Mediterranean. For Ecol Manag 255:3322–3330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. von Oheimb G, Härdtle W (2009) Selection harvest in temperate deciduous forests: impact on herb layer richness and composition. Biodivers Conserv 18:271–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wood SN (2006) Generalized additive models: An introduction with R. Champman and Hall/CRC, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  69. Wright JP, Naeem S, Hector A, Lehman C, Reich PB, Schmid B, Tilman D (2006) Conventional functional classification schemes underestimate the relationship with ecosystem functioning. Ecol Lett 9:111–120PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Xanthopoulos G, Caballero D, Galante M, Alexandrian D, Rigolot E, Marzano R (2006) Forest fuels management in Europe. In: Andrews PL, Butler BW (eds) Fuels management-how to measure success: conference Proceedings. USDA Forest Service, Portland, pp 29–46Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biologia Vegetal, Faculdade de Ciências de Lisboa, Centro de Biologia AmbientalUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos GenéticosUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal

Personalised recommendations