Lloret F., Calvo E., Pons X., Díaz-Delgado R. (2002) Wildfires and landscape patterns in the Eastern Iberian Peninsula. Landscape Ecology. 17: 745-759.LinkDoi: 10.1023/A:1022966930861
The relations between disturbance regime and landscape patterns have been developed from a theoretical perspective, but few studies have tested these relations when forces promoting opposing heterogeneity patterns are simultaneously operating on a landscape. This work provides quantitative evidence of these relations in areas dominated by human activity, showing that landscape heterogeneity decreases disturbance spread. In turn, disturbance introduces a source of landscape heterogeneity, but it is not enough to counterbalance the homogeneity trend due to agricultural abandonment. Land cover changes and wildfire occurrence (fires larger than 0.3 km2) have been monitored in the Tivissa municipality (208.4 km2) (Catalonia, NE Spain) from 1956 to 1993. Land cover maps were obtained from 1956, 1978 and 1993 and they were overlaid with fire occurrence maps obtained for the 1975-1995 period from 60 m resolution remote sensing images, which allow the identification of burned areas by sudden drops in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Changes in landscape patterns in relation to fire regime have been analyzed considering several parameters: patch density, mean patch size, mean distance to the nearest neighbour of the same category, edge density, and the Shannon diversity index. In the 1956-1993 period there is a trend to increasing landscape homogenization due to the expansion of shrublands linked to a decrease in forest surface, and to the abandonment of agricultural lands. This trend, however, is not constant along all the period. Fires are more likely to occur in woody, homogenous areas, increasing landscape heterogeneity, as observed in the 1978-1993 period. This increase in heterogeneity does not counterbalance the general trend to landscape homogenization as a consequence of agricultural abandonment and the coalescence of natural vegetation patches.
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