Forest management conditioning ground ant community structure and composition in temperate conifer forests in the Pyrenees Mountains

Arnan X., Gracia M., Comas L., Retana J. (2009) Forest management conditioning ground ant community structure and composition in temperate conifer forests in the Pyrenees Mountains. Forest Ecology and Management. 258: 51-59.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.03.029

Resum:

The search for indicators to monitor management impact on biodiversity is a crucial question because management practices promote changes in community structure and composition of different animal groups. This study explores the effect of widely conducted management practices (forest logging and livestock) in Pinus uncinata forests in the Pyrenees range (NE Spain) on the structure and composition of ground ant communities compared to those of old-growth stands. Forest structure clearly differed in stands with different forest managements. These stands managed for different uses also showed marked differences in structure and composition of ground ant communities. There was a great dominance of a single species, Formica lugubris, which accounted for 99% of ants collected in pitfall traps. Rarefaction curves indicated that species richness was highest in old-growth stands and lowest in even-aged ones, with woodland pasture stands showing an intermediate value. Classification methods allowed us to identify two groups of species: six species related to old-growth plots and three species (including F. lugubris) associated to managed stands. Habitat structure played an important role in determining the structure of ant communities: forests with high tree density but low basal area were the most favourable forest type for F. lugubris, while the abundance of the remaining ant species was negatively affected by the abundance of F. lugubris and by tree cover. © 2009.

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Factors influencing the formation of unburned forest islands within the perimeter of a large forest fire

Román-Cuesta R.M., Gracia M., Retana J. (2009) Factors influencing the formation of unburned forest islands within the perimeter of a large forest fire. Forest Ecology and Management. 258: 71-80.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.03.041

Resum:

Large forest fires have recently increased in frequency and severity in many ecosystems. Due to the heterogeneity in fuels, weather and topography, these large fires tend to form unburned islands of vegetation. This study focuses on a large forest fire that occurred in north-eastern Spain in 1998, which left large areas of unburned vegetation within its perimeter. Based on a satellite post-fire severity map we searched for the relative influence of biotic and abiotic factors leading to unburned island formation. We divided the area of the fire into individual units we called "slopes" which were meant to separate the differential microclimatic effects of contrasted aspects. The number of unburned islands and their areas were related to 12 variables that influence their formation (i.e. land cover composition, aspect, steepness, forest structure, two landscape indices and weather variables). We hypothesized that unburned vegetation islands would concentrate on northern aspects, in less flammable forests (i.e. broadleaf species) and higher fragmentation to interrupt the advance of fire. While north and western aspects did have a higher presence of unburned vegetation islands, our study suggests greater presence of islands in slopes that are larger (i.e. more continuous areas with relatively homogeneous aspect), with greater proportions of forest cover, with higher wood volumes and with lower proportions of broadleaf species. Climate also played a role, with relative humidity and wind speed positively and negatively correlated to island formation, respectively. Unburned vegetation was more frequent on slopes with lower diversity of land covers and higher dominance of one land cover in the slope. Since slopes with only one land cover (i.e. forests) had more islands than slopes with multiple cover types, we infer that under severe meteorological conditions, fragmented forests can be more affected by wind and by water stress, thus burning more readily than forests that are protected from this edge phenomenon. These results would reinforce forest management strategies that avoid linear features (fire-lines and fire-breaks), to enhance fuel treatments that focus on areas and minimize fragmentation. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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