Using unplanned fires to help suppressing future large fires in mediterranean forests

Regos A., Aquilue N., Retana J., De Caceres M., Brotons L. (2014) Using unplanned fires to help suppressing future large fires in mediterranean forests. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094906

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Despite the huge resources invested in fire suppression, the impact of wildfires has considerably increased across the Mediterranean region since the second half of the 20th century. Modulating fire suppression efforts in mild weather conditions is an appealing but hotly-debated strategy to use unplanned fires and associated fuel reduction to create opportunities for suppression of large fires in future adverse weather conditions. Using a spatially-explicit fire-succession model developed for Catalonia (Spain), we assessed this opportunistic policy by using two fire suppression strategies that reproduce how firefighters in extreme weather conditions exploit previous fire scars as firefighting opportunities. We designed scenarios by combining different levels of fire suppression efficiency and climatic severity for a 50-year period (2000-2050). An opportunistic fire suppression policy induced large-scale changes in fire regimes and decreased the area burnt under extreme climate conditions, but only accounted for up to 18-22% of the area to be burnt in reference scenarios. The area suppressed in adverse years tended to increase in scenarios with increasing amounts of area burnt during years dominated by mild weather. Climate change had counterintuitive effects on opportunistic fire suppression strategies. Climate warming increased the incidence of large fires under uncontrolled conditions but also indirectly increased opportunities for enhanced fire suppression. Therefore, to shift fire suppression opportunities from adverse to mild years, we would require a disproportionately large amount of area burnt in mild years. We conclude that the strategic planning of fire suppression resources has the potential to become an important cost-effective fuel-reduction strategy at large spatial scale. We do however suggest that this strategy should probably be accompanied by other fuel-reduction treatments applied at broad scales if large-scale changes in fire regimes are to be achieved, especially in the wider context of climate change. © 2014 Regos et al.

Llegeix més

Rural abandoned landscapes and bird assemblages: winners and losers in the rewilding of a marginal mountain area (NW Spain)

Regos A., Dominguez J., Gil-Tena A., Brotons L., Ninyerola M., Pons X. (2014) Rural abandoned landscapes and bird assemblages: winners and losers in the rewilding of a marginal mountain area (NW Spain). Regional Environmental Change. : 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1007/s10113-014-0740-7

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In many regions of Europe, large-scale socio-economic changes have led to the abandonment of rural activities and a gradual takeover of natural vegetation. It is important to assess the relative positive and negative effects of land abandonment on particular areas where the low-intensity farming is no longer socially or economically viable in order to quantify the potential conservation costs and benefits of a rewilding as a land-use management policy. During the period 2000–2010, we studied the land-use/land-cover changes in an abandoned mountain landscape (Galicia, NW Spain) and evaluated the effects on breeding bird occurrence and distribution. For this purpose, we analysed remotely sensed data-derived maps in combination with data obtained from bird censuses carried out in 2000 and 2010 at both landscape and census plot scale. The results revealed a gradient of change from bare ground and open shrubland to closed shrubland and woodland. Thirteen shrubland and forest bird species showed a significant increase (including species of conservation concern such as Turtle Dove, Dartford Warbler and Western Bonelli’s Warbler), while four ecotone and open-habitat species (e.g. Red-backed Shrike) showed a significant negative trend. In conclusion, rewilding appears to have overall positive effects on biodiversity and should be considered by policy makers as alternative land-use strategy in marginal mountain areas, particularly if they have been historically affected by wildfires. Fire management aimed at favouring the creation of small burned areas in progressively closed landscapes derived from rewilding may be a complementary alternative to maintain open habitats in these areas.

Llegeix més

Is response to fire influenced by dietary specialization and mobility? A comparative study with multiple animal assemblages

Santos X., Mateos E., Bros V., Brotons L., De Mas E., Herraiz J.A., Herrando S., Mino A., Olmo-Vidal J.M., Quesada J., Ribes J., Sabate S., Sauras-Yera T., Serra A., Ramon Vallejo V., Vinolas A. (2014) Is response to fire influenced by dietary specialization and mobility? A comparative study with multiple animal assemblages. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088224

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Fire is a major agent involved in landscape transformation and an indirect cause of changes in species composition. Responses to fire may vary greatly depending on life histories and functional traits of species. We have examined the taxonomic and functional responses to fire of eight taxonomic animal groups displaying a gradient of dietary and mobility patterns: Gastropoda, Heteroptera, Formicidae, Coleoptera, Araneae, Orthoptera, Reptilia and Aves. The fieldwork was conducted in a Mediterranean protected area on 3 sites (one unburnt and two burnt with different postfire management practices) with five replicates per site. We collected information from 4606 specimens from 274 animal species. Similarity in species composition and abundance between areas was measured by the Bray-Curtis index and ANOSIM, and comparisons between animal and plant responses by Mantel tests. We analyze whether groups with the highest percentage of omnivorous species, these species being more generalist in their dietary habits, show weak responses to fire (i.e. more similarity between burnt and unburnt areas), and independent responses to changes in vegetation. We also explore how mobility, i.e. dispersal ability, influences responses to fire. Our results demonstrate that differences in species composition and abundance between burnt and unburnt areas differed among groups. We found a tendency towards presenting lower differences between areas for groups with higher percentages of omnivorous species. Moreover, taxa with a higher percentage of omnivorous species had significantly more independent responses of changes in vegetation. High- (e.g. Aves) and low-mobility (e.g. Gastropoda) groups had the strongest responses to fire (higher R scores of the ANOSIM); however, we failed to find a significant general pattern with all the groups according to their mobility. Our results partially support the idea that functional traits underlie the response of organisms to environmental changes caused by fire. © 2014 Santos et al.

Llegeix més

How Fire History, Fire Suppression Practices and Climate Change Affect Wildfire Regimes in Mediterranean Landscapes

Brotons L., Aquilue N., de Caceres M., Fortin M.-J., Fall A. (2013) How Fire History, Fire Suppression Practices and Climate Change Affect Wildfire Regimes in Mediterranean Landscapes. PLoS ONE. 8: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062392

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Available data show that future changes in global change drivers may lead to an increasing impact of fires on terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. Yet, fire regime changes in highly humanised fire-prone regions are difficult to predict because fire effects may be heavily mediated by human activities We investigated the role of fire suppression strategies in synergy with climate change on the resulting fire regimes in Catalonia (north-eastern Spain). We used a spatially-explicit fire-succession model at the landscape level to test whether the use of different firefighting opportunities related to observed reductions in fire spread rates and effective fire sizes, and hence changes in the fire regime. We calibrated this model with data from a period with weak firefighting and later assess the potential for suppression strategies to modify fire regimes expected under different levels of climate change. When comparing simulations with observed fire statistics from an eleven-year period with firefighting strategies in place, our results showed that, at least in two of the three sub-regions analysed, the observed fire regime could not be reproduced unless taking into account the effects of fire suppression. Fire regime descriptors were highly dependent on climate change scenarios, with a general trend, under baseline scenarios without fire suppression, to large-scale increases in area burnt. Fire suppression strategies had a strong capacity to compensate for climate change effects. However, strong active fire suppression was necessary to accomplish such compensation, while more opportunistic fire suppression strategies derived from recent fire history only had a variable, but generally weak, potential for compensation of enhanced fire impacts under climate change. The concept of fire regime in the Mediterranean is probably better interpreted as a highly dynamic process in which the main determinants of fire are rapidly modified by changes in landscape, climate and socioeconomic factors such as fire suppression strategies. © 2013 Brotons et al.

Llegeix més

Geographical variability in propagule pressure and climatic suitability explain the European distribution of two highly invasive crayfish

Capinha C., Brotons L., Anastácio P. (2013) Geographical variability in propagule pressure and climatic suitability explain the European distribution of two highly invasive crayfish. Journal of Biogeography. 40: 548-558.
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Doi: 10.1111/jbi.12025

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Aim: We assess the relative contribution of human, biological and climatic factors in explaining the colonization success of two highly invasive freshwater decapods: the signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) and the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Location: Europe. Methods: We used boosted regression trees to evaluate the relative influence of, and relationship between, the invader's current pattern of distribution and a set of spatially explicit variables considered important to their colonization success. These variables are related to four well-known invasion hypotheses, namely the role of propagule pressure, climate matching, biotic resistance from known competitors, and human disturbance. Results: Model predictions attained a high accuracy for the two invaders (mean AUC ≥ 0.91). Propagule pressure and climatic suitability were identified as the primary drivers of colonization, but the former had a much higher relative influence on the red swamp crayfish. Climate matching was shown to have limited predictive value and climatic suitability models based on occurrences from other invaded areas had consistently higher relative explanatory power than models based on native range data. Biotic resistance and human disturbance were also shown to be weak predictors of the distribution of the two invaders. Main conclusions: These results contribute to our general understanding of the factors that enable certain species to become notable invaders. Being primarily driven by propagule pressure and climatic suitability, we expect that, given their continued dispersal, the future distribution of these problematic decapods in Europe will increasingly represent their fundamental climatic niche. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Llegeix més

Improved empirical tests of area-heterogeneity tradeoffs

Carnicer J., Brotons L., Herrando S., Sol D. (2013) Improved empirical tests of area-heterogeneity tradeoffs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1073/pnas.1222681110

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[No abstract available]

Llegeix més

The combined effects of land-use legacies and novel fire regimes on bird distributions in the Mediterranean

De Caceres M., Brotons L., Aquilue N., Fortin M.-J. (2013) The combined effects of land-use legacies and novel fire regimes on bird distributions in the Mediterranean. Journal of Biogeography. 40: 1535-1547.
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Doi: 10.1111/jbi.12111

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Aim: We investigate first whether fire regimes resulting from the combination of climate change and fire-fighting policy may affect species distributions in Mediterranean landscapes, and second to what extent distributional dynamics may be constrained by the spatial legacy of historical land use. Location: Catalonia (north-eastern Spain). Methods: We modelled the distributional responses of 64 forest and open-habitat bird species to nine fire-regime scenarios, defined by combining different levels of climate change and fire suppression efficiency. A fire-succession model was used to stochastically simulate land-cover changes between 2000 and 2050 under these scenarios. We used species distribution models to predict habitat suitability and occupancy dynamics under either no dispersal or full dispersal assumptions. Results: Under many simulated scenarios, the succession from shrubland to forest dominated over the creation of new low-vegetation areas derived from wildfires. Consequently, open-habitat specialists were the group most affected by losses of suitable habitat. Fire regimes obtained under scenarios including high fire suppression efficiency resulted in a larger number of bird species experiencing reductions in their distribution area. Main conclusions: Anthropogenic factors, such as historical land-use change and fire suppression, can drive regional distribution dynamics in directions opposite to those expected from climatic trends. This raises the question of what drivers and interactions should be given priority in the prediction of biodiversity responses to global change at the regional scale. © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Llegeix més

Soil carbon stocks and their variability across the forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain

Doblas-Miranda E., Rovira P., Brotons L., Martinez-Vilalta J., Retana J., Pla M., Vayreda J. (2013) Soil carbon stocks and their variability across the forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain. Biogeosciences. 10: 8353-8361.
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Doi: 10.5194/bg-10-8353-2013

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Accurate estimates of C stocks and fluxes of soil organic carbon (SOC) are needed to assess the impact of climate and land use change on soil C uptake and soil C emissions to the atmosphere. Here, we present an assessment of SOC stocks in forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain based on field measurements in more than 900 soil profiles. SOC to a depth of 1 m was modelled as a function of vegetation cover, mean annual temperature, total annual precipitation, elevation and the interaction between temperature and elevation, while latitude and longitude were used to model the correlation structure of the errors. The resulting statistical model was used to estimate SOC in the ∼8 million pixels of the Spanish Forest Map (29.3 × 106 ha). We present what we believe is the most reliable estimation of current SOC in forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain thus far, based on the use of spatial modelling, the high number of profiles and the validity and refinement of the data layers employed. Mean concentration of SOC was 8.7 kg m-2, ranging from 2.3 kg m-2 in dry Mediterranean areas to 20.4 kg m -2 in wetter northern locations. This value corresponds to a total stock of 2.544 Tg SOC, which is four times the amount of C estimated to be stored in the biomass of Spanish forests. Climate and vegetation cover were the main variables influencing SOC, with important ecological implications for peninsular Spanish ecosystems in the face of global change. The fact that SOC was positively related to annual precipitation and negatively related to mean annual temperature suggests that future climate change predictions of increased temperature and reduced precipitation may strongly reduce the potential of Spanish soils as C sinks. However, this may be mediated by changes in vegetation cover (e.g. by favouring the development of forests associated to higher SOC values) and exacerbated by perturbations such as fire. The estimations presented here provide a baseline to estimate future changes in soil C stocks and to assess their vulnerability to key global change drivers, and should inform future actions aimed at the conservation and management of C stocks. © 2013 Author(s).

Llegeix més

Predicting species distributions for conservation decisions

Guisan A., Tingley R., Baumgartner J.B., Naujokaitis-Lewis I., Sutcliffe P.R., Tulloch A.I.T., Regan T.J., Brotons L., Mcdonald-Madden E., Mantyka-Pringle C., Martin T.G., Rhodes J.R., Maggini R., Setterfield S.A., Elith J., Schwartz M.W., Wintle B.A., Broennimann O., Austin M., Ferrier S., Kearney M.R., Possingham H.P., Buckley Y.M. (2013) Predicting species distributions for conservation decisions. Ecology Letters. 16: 1424-1435.
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Doi: 10.1111/ele.12189

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Species distribution models (SDMs) are increasingly proposed to support conservation decision making. However, evidence of SDMs supporting solutions for on-ground conservation problems is still scarce in the scientific literature. Here, we show that successful examples exist but are still largely hidden in the grey literature, and thus less accessible for analysis and learning. Furthermore, the decision framework within which SDMs are used is rarely made explicit. Using case studies from biological invasions, identification of critical habitats, reserve selection and translocation of endangered species, we propose that SDMs may be tailored to suit a range of decision-making contexts when used within a structured and transparent decision-making process. To construct appropriate SDMs to more effectively guide conservation actions, modellers need to better understand the decision process, and decision makers need to provide feedback to modellers regarding the actual use of SDMs to support conservation decisions. This could be facilitated by individuals or institutions playing the role of 'translators' between modellers and decision makers. We encourage species distribution modellers to get involved in real decision-making processes that will benefit from their technical input; this strategy has the potential to better bridge theory and practice, and contribute to improve both scientific knowledge and conservation outcomes. © 2013 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and CNRS.

Llegeix més

Addressing a critique of the TEASI framework for invasive species risk assessment

Leung B., Roura-Pascual N., Bacher S., Heikkila J., Brotons L., Burgman M.A., Dehnen-Schmutz K., Essl F., Hulme P.E., Richardson D.M., Sol D., Vila M. (2013) Addressing a critique of the TEASI framework for invasive species risk assessment. Ecology Letters. 16: 1415-14.
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Doi: 10.1111/ele.12172

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We address criticism that the Transport, Establishment, Abundance, Spread, Impact (TEASI) framework does not facilitate objective mapping of risk assessment methods nor defines best practice. We explain why TEASI is appropriate for mapping, despite inherent challenges, and how TEASI offers considerations for best practices, rather than suggesting one best practice. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS.

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