Shrub recovery after fuel reduction treatments and a subsequent fire in a Spanish heathland
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Fuel reduction treatments are commonly used nowadays to reduce wildfire hazard in northwestern Spain. Although prescribed fire has been widely used as a fuel reduction treatment, comparison with mechanical methods is scarce. In this study, we compared the effects of prescribed burning, clearing and mechanical shredding on shrub cover recovery, relative to untreated mature vegetation, in a heathland dominated by Erica umbellata Loefl. (L.) in Galicia (NW Spain). The fuel reduction treatments were applied in the spring of 2006, and the area was burned by an experimental fire in the spring of 2009. We evaluated shrub recovery, in comparison with an untreated control, after application of the above-mentioned fuel reduction treatments and also after an experimental fire 3 years later. Shrub cover and height remained lower than in the untreated control during the 3 years after application of the treatments, and the effects of the different treatments were not significantly different. The treatments did not affect species richness or seedling density during the 3-year interval. After the experimental fire, the only significant effect observed was an increase in grass cover in the areas treated by mechanical shredding and by prescribed fire relative to the control (untreated area); this effect lasted until the end of the study. Some consequences for management of this type of heathland are also discussed.
KeywordsPrescribed burning Clearing Mechanical shredding Resprouting Erica Ulex Pterospartum Halimium
The study was funded by the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Spain (INIA) through projects RTA 2005-00244-C02-01 and RTA2011-00065-C02-01, cofunded by FEDER. Financial support from the Plan de Mejora e Innovación Forestal de Galicia (2010–2020) is also gratefully acknowledged. We thank Antonio Arellano for valuable field assistance at all stages of the experimental work. We also thank all those who helped with fieldwork, particularly José Ramón González, Jesús Pardo, José Gómez and Alba Martínez, and Elena Pérez for help with databases. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
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