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Spatio-temporal perspectives of forest fires regimes in a maturing Mediterranean mixed pine landscape

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It has been suggested that during the past several decades, the frequency and the intensity of wildfires have markedly increased in the Mediterranean basin. We came to assess this postulation in the forested region of Mount Carmel, Israel. This region is characterized by Quercus spp. and Pistacia spp. maquis and has been intensely afforested with Pinus spp. stands since the 1920s. We compiled a GIS-based database of the fires recorded in the region since 1983, in addition to archiving data beginning from the 1940s. The data were collected from land stewardship agencies’ archives, fire departments and aerial photographs. Prior to the early 1980s, no systematic documentation of the fires was available, rather just sporadic qualitative documentation of the large forest fires that occurred. Between 1944 and 1982, only 6 large fires were documented, while after that 11 large fires occurred. Analysis indicated that the spatial distribution of the fires does not occur at random, and their locations are significantly closer to roadsides compared to an expected random distribution. The annual number of fires and the areas burned during the last two decades were not correlated with annual precipitation in any manner. Accordingly, we suggest that the increased number of large forest fires during the last decades is associated with the maturation and senescence of the planted forest coupled with increased human activities.

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We thank Ms. N. Tessler for assistance in constructing the GIS database. We would also like to thank the Jewish National Fund, and the Israeli Parks Nature Reserves Authority for providing us with relevant GIS databases. The authors are grateful to the useful and constructive comments suggested by two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Lea Wittenberg.

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Communicated by C. Ammer and M. Köhl.

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Wittenberg, L., Malkinson, D. Spatio-temporal perspectives of forest fires regimes in a maturing Mediterranean mixed pine landscape. Eur J Forest Res 128, 297–304 (2009).

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