Feedbacks between fuel reduction and landscape homogenisation determine fire regimes in three Mediterranean areas

Loepfe L., Martinez-Vilalta J., Oliveres J., Piñol J., Lloret F. (2010) Feedbacks between fuel reduction and landscape homogenisation determine fire regimes in three Mediterranean areas. Forest Ecology and Management. 259: 2366-2374.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.03.009

Resum:

In densely populated areas like the Mediterranean, wildfire extent is mostly limited by fire suppression and fuel fragmentation. Fire is known to spread more easily through high fuel loads and homogenous terrain and it is supposed to reduce fuel amount and continuity, creating a negative feedback. Here we combine information from administration fire records, satellite imagery fire scars and land use/cover maps to asses the effects of fire on landscape structure and vice versa for three areas in Catalonia (NE Spain). We worked with three spatial focuses: the actual fire scar, 1 km2 squares and 10 km2 squares. In these regions agriculture land abandonment has lead to increased fuel continuity, paralleled by an increment of fire size. We confirm that fire spread is facilitated by land use/cover types with high fuel load and by homogeneous terrain and that fire reduces fuel load by transforming forests into shrublands. But we also found that fire increased landscape homogeneity, creating a positive feedback on fire propagation. We argue that this is possible in landscapes with finer grain than fire alone would create. The lack of discontinuities in the fuel bed diminishes the extinction capacity of fire brigades and increases the risk of large fires. We recommend that fire management should focus more on conservation of the traditional rural mosaic in order to prevent further increases in fuel continuity and fire risk. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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A quantitative and statistically robust method for the determination of xylem conduit spatial distribution

Mencuccini M., Martinez-Vilalta J., Piñol J., Loepfe L., Mireia B., Alvarez X., Camacho J., Gil D. (2010) A quantitative and statistically robust method for the determination of xylem conduit spatial distribution. American Journal of Botany. 97: 1247-1259.
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Doi: 10.3732/ajb.0900289

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Premise of the study: Because of their limited length, xylem conduits need to connect to each other to maintain water transport from roots to leaves. Conduit spatial distribution in a cross section plays an important role in aiding this connectivity. While indices of conduit spatial distribution already exist, they are not well defi ned statistically. Methods: We used point pattern analysis to derive new spatial indices. One hundred and fi ve cross-sectional images from different species were transformed into binary images. The resulting point patterns, based on the locations of the conduit centersof-area, were analyzed to determine whether they departed from randomness. Conduit distribution was then modeled using a spatially explicit stochastic model. Key results: The presence of conduit randomness, uniformity, or aggregation depended on the spatial scale of the analysis. The large majority of the images showed patterns signifi cantly different from randomness at least at one spatial scale. A strong phylogenetic signal was detected in the spatial variables. Conclusions: Conduit spatial arrangement has been largely conserved during evolution, especially at small spatial scales. Species in which conduits were aggregated in clusters had a lower conduit density compared to those with uniform distribution. Statistically sound spatial indices must be employed as an aid in the characterization of distributional patterns across species and in models of xylem water transport. Point pattern analysis is a very useful tool in identifying spatial patterns. © 2010 Botanical Society of America.

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Ant versus bird exclusion effects on the arthropod assemblage of an organic citrus grove

Piñol J., Espadaler X., Cañellas N., MartíNez-Vilalta J., Barrientos J.A., Sol D. (2010) Ant versus bird exclusion effects on the arthropod assemblage of an organic citrus grove. Ecological Entomology. 35: 367-376.
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Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.2010.01190.x

Resum:

Predation-exclusion experiments have highlighted that top-down control is pervasive in terrestrial communities, but most of these experiments are simplistic in that they only excluded a single group of predators and the effect of removal was evaluated on a few species from the community. The main goal of our study was to experimentally establish the relative effects of ants and birds on the same arthropod assemblage of canopy trees. We conducted 1-year long manipulative experiments in an organic citrus grove intended to quantify the independent effects of bird and ant predators on the abundance of arthropods. Birds were excluded with plastic nets whereas ants were excluded with sticky barriers on the trunks. The sticky barrier also excluded other ground dwelling insects, like the European earwig Forficula auricularia L. Both the exclusion of ants and birds affected the arthropod community of the citrus canopies, but the exclusion of ants was far more important than the exclusion of birds. Indeed, almost all groups of arthropods had higher abundance in ant-excluded than in control trees, whereas only dermapterans were more abundant in bird-excluded than in control trees. A more detailed analysis conducted on spiders also showed that the effect of ant exclusion was limited to a few families rather than being widespread over the entire diverse spectrum of spiders. Our results suggest that the relative importance of vertebrate and invertebrate predators in regulating arthropod populations largely depends on the nature of the predator-prey system. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 The Royal Entomological Society.

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A simple method to differentially exclude ants from tree canopies based on ant body size.

Romeu-Dalmau C, Espadaler X, Piñol J (2010) A simple method to differentially exclude ants from tree canopies based on ant body size. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 1: 188-191.