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Post-fire Restoration of Mediterranean Pine Forests

Part of the Managing Forest Ecosystems book series (MAFE,volume 38)

Abstract

Pines are a major component of the forests in Mediterranean-type ecosystems, and have been extensively used for reforestation in the Mediterranean Basin and in other parts of the world. However, the increase in fire severity and frequency in recent decades and the sensitivity of most pine species to fire are threatening their future, often making restoration actions necessary. Restoration should focus on promoting the elements of the ecosystem that accelerate the recovery of the desired forest while reducing management impacts. Currently, forest recovery of burnt pine stands is based largely on immediate and intense management, usually generalized across the landscape. These actions include post-fire salvage logging, mulching, construction of log erosion barriers, planting, and other activities that frequently involve the use of heavy machinery. However, although the ultimate goal is forest recovery, these actions, by the time they are implemented, may hamper natural regeneration by affecting several key ecosystem functions and processes, such as nutrient cycling, plant-animal interactions, and the seedling and resprout bank. Here, I advocate for considering post-fire biological legacies (including the burnt wood) and promoting natural processes as fundamental elements for fostering forest regeneration. This approach may be more effective than intense interventionism, as it seeks to mitigate human impact on the ecosystem, and also reduces costs. This approach is applicable regardless of whether the forest is being preserved for conservation or production purposes. Current knowledge of post-fire ecology in coniferous forests supports the necessity to shift from old work routines that often lack a scientific basis to ecologically oriented precision restoration that maximizes the natural potential from the microscale to the macroscale.

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Acknowledgements

This study is the result of years of research and classroom work, as well as discussions with colleagues, students, and friends, too numerous to be listed. Nonetheless, I would like to express my gratitude to Alex Leverkus, Pepe Quirós (the “tree planter”), J. Ramón Guzmán, Craig Allen, Pedro Antonio Tíscar, and Pipo (FB Navarro) for their generous support. An anonymous reviewer provided comments that improved the manuscript. Special thanks to David Nesbitt, who apart of correcting my English has had the ability to read my mind for years and find the way to express critical ideas in what for me is a foreign tongue. Special thanks also to my daughter, Julia, for our field trips and her patient while in listening to my enthusiastic (but I guess sometimes boring) explanations about how forests function, including photosynthesis and the wonder of its pathways. This work is dedicated to her.

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Castro, J. (2021). Post-fire Restoration of Mediterranean Pine Forests. In: Ne'eman, G., Osem, Y. (eds) Pines and Their Mixed Forest Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Basin. Managing Forest Ecosystems, vol 38. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-63625-8_25

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