Ecological Research

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 37–49

Local lithological drivers of post-fire vegetation recovery and implications for fire-prone regions

  • João Torres
  • Joana Marques
  • Paulo Alves
  • Hermenegildo Costa
  • João Honrado
Original Article


Local ecosystem resilience to fire disturbance can be influenced by multiple factors, from topography and climate, to fire history and pre-fire structure of biotic communities. Here we investigated the factors affecting post-fire recovery of scrub vegetation in areas under Mediterranean climate affected by frequent fires. We hypothesized that, under comparable climatic and topographic conditions, geological factors (with bedrock type as a proxy) would be at least as important as fire history in explaining patterns of post-fire recovery. We surveyed scrub vegetation in a mountain study area in Portugal, using a stratified random sampling scheme, with fire frequency, time since last fire, and bedrock type (granite vs. schist) as stratifying layers. Based on vegetation and plant community data from 40 plots, we analyzed total species richness and composition, and the relative abundance of functional groups defined on the basis of general (non fire-specific) life-history traits. We found that, at a local scale, lithology can override fire history in determining post-fire recovery. Vegetation plots on granite exhibited a considerable development of tall scrubs and higher values of total species richness. They also hosted higher numbers of animal-dispersed woody species, of trees and tall scrubs, of woody deciduous species, and of forest, edge and tall scrub species. Differences in the post-fire development of scrub vegetation and in the functional profile of plant communities highlight the need to consider local geological diversity when establishing priorities for post-fire active restoration under scenarios of limited resources.


Bedrock type Fire history Local resilience Plant traits Wildfires 


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© The Ecological Society of Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.InBIO-Rede de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Biologia Evolutiva, Laboratório AssociadoCIBIO-Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de VairãoVairãoPortugal
  2. 2.Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’eDiliTimor-Leste
  3. 3.Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do PortoPortoPortugal

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