Post-fire forestry management improves fruit weight and seed set in forest coppices dominated by Arbutus unedo L.

Quevedo L., Arnan X., Rodrigo A. (2015) Post-fire forestry management improves fruit weight and seed set in forest coppices dominated by Arbutus unedo L.. Forest Ecology and Management. 345: 65-72.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2015.02.030

Resum:

In Mediterranean ecosystems, post-fire forestry management practices are often used to improve forest structure and to reduce the risk of fire in coppices of resprouting species. Such practices enhance tree growth (i.e., height), probably because they release resources. On the one hand, resource release may stimulate reproduction. On the other hand, tree species that are regenerating after a fire may already face a delay in reproduction, and this delay may be lengthened if species mainly invest these additional resources in growth. Within this theoretical framework, it is poorly understood how different forest management practices affect the reproductive abilities of forest species. In this study, we analyzed the effect of two post-fire forestry treatments (selective thinning of resprouts and selective thinning of resprouts plus understory clearing) on a Mediterranean coppice dominated by the resprouter species Arbutus unedo L.; in particular, we examined how the treatments affected this species' reproductive ability (flower and fruit production at the tree and stand level, as well as fruit characteristics). Our results show that the treatments had no effects on the number of flowers and mature fruits per individual. Meanwhile, mature fruit dry mass and seed set were greater in plots that had been both thinned and cleared than in control plots and plots that had only been thinned. This pattern was reversed for seed abortion rate: it was lower in plots that had been thinned and cleared. The dry mass of developed seeds did not differ among treatments. At the stand level, the percentage of strawberry trees that flowered, the percentage of strawberry trees that bore fruit, the dry biomass of mature fruits per hectare, and the number of developed seeds per hectare were not affected by these treatments. Other studies have shown that these two forest management practices can improve the vertical and horizontal structure of A. unedo coppices that are regenerating post fire; this study demonstrates that selective thinning does not modify the species' reproductive success and, such practice when combined with understory clearing might enhance it. Consequently, these forestry practices might ensure the natural regeneration of populations of this species, as well as the availability of food for local fauna. It is thus highly recommended that such practices be used to manage coppices dominated by resprouter species following fire, especially in situations where the growth of the forest canopy has stagnated and/or reproduction of forest species has been delayed. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

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Post-fire selective thinning of Arbutus unedo L. coppices keeps animal diversity unchanged: The case of ants

Quevedo L., Arnan X., Boet O., Rodrigo A. (2014) Post-fire selective thinning of Arbutus unedo L. coppices keeps animal diversity unchanged: The case of ants. Annals of Forest Science. 71: 897-905.
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Doi: 10.1007/s13595-014-0381-5

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Context: In the Mediterranean area, different post-fire management strategies are used for coppices of resprouting species to promote a more regular forest structure, enhance plant growth, and reduce fire risk. However, the effects of these management treatments on forest-associated fauna are unknown, which in turn could be limiting their beneficial effects.Aims: The aim of this work was to determine whether forest management of a recently burned area dominated by a vigorous resprouting tree species (Arbutus unedo L.) affects ant communities.Methods: Ant communities, sampled using pitfall traps, were examined from unmanaged and selective thinning coppices of A. unedo. Ants are here used as bioindicators of ecosystem health and surrogates for other animal groups.Results: Very limited effects of these post-fire management strategies on the structure and composition of ant communities were found. The lack of effects could be due to the reported small changes in physical conditions among treatments; or either, the most sensitive ant species to these post-fire management treatments might be the same ones affected by fire and, consequently, the ant species that would potentially be affected most were no longer in the study area.Conclusion: The lack of any significant effects caused by these post-fire management practices on the associated fauna of A. unedo coppices points out the suitability of these treatments in these circumstances. © 2014, INRA and Springer-Verlag France.

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Forest fire occurrence increases the distribution of a scarce forest type in the Mediterranean Basin

Arnan X., Quevedo L., Rodrigo A. (2013) Forest fire occurrence increases the distribution of a scarce forest type in the Mediterranean Basin. Acta Oecologica. 46: 39-47.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.actao.2012.10.005

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Here we report how fire recurrence increases the distribution of a scarce forest type in NE Spain that is dominated by the resprouter tree species Arbutus unedo. We used a combination of GIS and field surveys to determine the effect of fire and pre-fire vegetation on the appearance of A. unedo forests. In the field, we also analyzed the factors that promote fire and lead to the appearance of A. unedo forests. Our results reveal an increased occurrence of A. unedo forests in NE Spain in recent years; this phenomenon was strongly related to fire recurrence and the vegetation type present prior to fire. Most Pinus halepensis forests that burned more than once gave rise to A. unedo forests. Our results indicate that these conversions were related to a reduction in pine density coupled with increases in the density and size of A. unedo trees due to recurrent fires. Given that fires are increasing in number and magnitude in the Mediterranean, we predict a major change in landscape structure and composition at the regional scale. © 2012 Elsevier Masson SAS.

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Selective thinning of Arbutus unedo coppices following fire: Effects on growth at the individual and plot level

Quevedo L., Arnan X., Rodrigo A. (2013) Selective thinning of Arbutus unedo coppices following fire: Effects on growth at the individual and plot level. Forest Ecology and Management. 292: 56-63.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2012.12.007

Resum:

In recent years, several Mediterranean forests subject to fire are becoming increasingly dominated by the resprouter species Arbutus unedo L. (strawberry tree). However, there is little information available about the management of these areas, and it is not clear if the approaches utilized for other, more abundant Mediterranean resprouter species such as Quercus ilex and Quercus cerrioides would produce similar results for A. unedo. In this study, performed in the NE Iberian Peninsula, we analyzed the effect of two post-fire treatment types, selective thinning and selective thinning plus understory clearing, on the growth of retained A. unedo resprouts and the new resprouting induced by the treatment itself. Treatment effects were analyzed at both the individual and plot level. Our results showed that, in the short term, retained resprouts on treated trees grew more in height and diameter (absolute and relative) than those on control trees, with no differences seen between treatment types. In the intermediate term, all the strawberry trees occurring on treated plots grew longer, and this growth was greater in plots that had been both thinned and cleared. New, induced resprouts were unaffected by the type of treatment applied. In contrast to other studies, we failed to find a negative relationship between the degree of induced resprouting and retained resprout growth We therefore conclude that, irrespective of understory clearing, the selective thinning of A. unedo improves coppice vertical structure. Retained resprouts grow more in diameter and will thus more rapidly become exploitable as firewood and timber. Also, the tree is kept free of dead fuel, reducing the risk of spreading fire. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

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