Special Issue "Effects of Post-Fire Management Activities on Forests"
A special issue of Forests (ISSN 1999-4907).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2017)
Significant changes in the configuration of forest ecosystems, when not related to climate, are frequently caused by the action of fires. Repeated fires can result in a different ecosystem than expected when solely considering the climatic situation in which it is located. Fire acts as an essential ecological factor for the distribution of biomes on Earth.
There are many factors that are responsible for changing fire regimes, their intensity, and their recurrence:
- Widespread rural abandonment resulting in the accumulation of fuel.
- The rapid extinguishment of small fires, due to increased efficiency of modern firefighting techniques, which has led to eradication of the ecological role of fire.
- Land-use changes.
- The replacement of native species with more productive, fast-growing species.
- Global warming.
After a forest fire occurs, there is a question of whether to act, and if so, which types of post-fire management techniques to perform. Performing management actions in areas affected by fires is crucial for their recovery, but sometimes post-fire management may have more of an effect on the environment than the fire itself. This must be carefully studied and corrected.
Of special interest is the study of certain post-fire management techniques and their possible effects, such as:
- The best approach to extracting burnt wood.
- Usage of mulch treatment after a fire occurrence to avoid soil degradation.
- The reduction of the vegetation density, to avoid a high accumulation of fuel sources after a fire.
It would also be interesting to learn about the effects that prescribed fires, utilized as a management tool, can have on different forest ecosystems, as well as whether there are possible land-use changes after forest fire occurrences.
The objective of this Special Issue is to learn about types of post-fire management techniques that can guarantee the preservation of forest ecology and also, from an economic point of view, preserve potential forest-based business models that rely on forest products. Utilizing these management techniques should avoid negative processes, diseases, erosion, or detrimental contributions to forest structures, which can cause renewed and severe forest fires.
Dr. Xavier Úbeda
Dr. Victoria Arcenegui
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- Forests fires
- Forest management
- Forest ecosystems
- Post-fire actions
- Vegetation recovery
The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.
Authors: Lucas-Borja, M.E, Calsamiglia, A., Fortesa, J., García-Comendador, J., Estrany, J.
Abstract: Abandonment of terraced lands lead to afforestation increasing fire risk and land degradation. The relations between two biochemical soil properties may be used as simple indexes of soil quality to evaluate soil deterioration in terraced and burned areas. This work assesses the effect of fire recurrence and terracing in soil quality by using metabolic quotient (qCO2), mineralization coefficient (Qcm), soil microbial biomass and total organic carbon ratio (MCB/TOC) and Synthetic index (SEI). The presence of terraces and the forest fire recurrence in the last 20 years were sampled in thirty-six plots of 25 m2 along three micro-catchments collecting four replicas at the corners of each plot. Non-terraced plots exhibited significantly (p < 0.05) higher ratio values; i.e., qCO2 index: 0.010 mg C-CO2 g-1 Cmic h-1 in terraced plots and 0.025 mg C-CO2 g-1 Cmic h-1 in non-terraced plots. However, fire recurrence did not illustrate a significant effect on both non- and terraced plots although consistently presenting lower soil indexes values.
Title: Medium-term impact of post-fire emergency rehabilitation treatments on a forest ecosystem in Galicia (NW Spain)
Authors: Raviña, M.
Abstract: The post-fire emergence rehabilitation techniques, seeding and mulching, are often recommended to reduce post-fire erosion. However, quantitative information concerning their effects on soil properties and hence on soil quality and their effectiveness both at short- and medium-term is scarce. In the present study the effectiveness of these two techniques 8 and 12 months after the application of the treatments as well as their effects on soil quality at medium-term (8-48 months after the fire) were studied. Soil samples were collected from the A horizon and a wide range of physicochemical, chemical and biochemical soil properties were analyzed. The mean efficiency of both seeding and mulching treatments in preventing soil erosion during the study period was 11 and 65 %, respectively. The fire effect on soil properties persisted even 4 years after the wildfire. Although, no effect of seeding or mulching on the vegetation cover was observed, the PLFA data showed that in the medium-term, fire may modify soil microbial communities by altering the plant community via plant-induced changes in the soil environment. Both stabilization treatments had a minor influence on the post-fire soil quality at medium-term; therefore, taking into account its effectiveness the mulching treatment is recommended as the best post-fire stabilization technique.
Title: Predation influence on seedling recruitment in Mediterranean forests after prescribed burning
Authors: Javier Sagra, Pedro Antonio Plaza-Álvarez, Daniel Moya, Manuel Esteban Lucas-Borja, Raquel Alfaro Sánchez, Jorge de las Heras Ibáñez and Pablo Ferrandis
Abstract: Wildfires play a significant role on many different elements of the Mediterranean forest ecosystems. In recent years, prescribed fires have started to be more oftern used as a fuel reduction tool, as well as silvicultural treatment to help regeneration and health improvement of the stands. However, other than the fact that fire may alter microsite conditions, little is known about the impact of prescribed burning on natural regeneration or plant species renewal. Likewise, knowledge about the influence of seedling predators on the regeneration after the fire is still scarce. In this study, we aim to compare the effects of seed predation on the development of seedlings in three different pine stands in Central Spain: a pure stand of Pinus nigra, and two mixed stands of P. halepensis-P. pinaster and P. nigra- P. pinaster respectively. In each of these sited we sowed just beneath the soil surface seeds from two different species. Furthermore, different seed provenances for every specie (from Spanish dry and wet locations) were sowed in the experiment. In total 60 plots (30 burned and 30 control) per site, with 10 seeding units per plot and more than 20.000 seeds used in the whole study. Seed predation was evaluated by replicating the seeding units inside and outside a wire cage as protection for rodents and birds. Our results showed that prescribed fires do alter initial seedling predation dynamics. Predation was significantly higher on the seedlings growing on the plots affected by the prescribed fire. In the case of P. halepensis and P. pinaster they showed higher rates of predation on seedlings coming from colder provenances. The effect of fire did not seem to have a clear consequence on the predation. To understand the role of predation on these treatments can help to improve the efficiency of regeneration burns in Mediterranean pine forests.
Title: Effects of low intensity prescribed burnings on soil infiltration and water repellency in a Mediterranean pine forest
Authors: Pedro Antonio Plaza-Álvarez, Javier Sagra, Daniel Moya, Manuel Esteban Lucas-Borja, Raquel Alfaro Sánchez and Jorge de las Heras Ibáñez
Abstract: Prescribed burnings are a very effective forest fuel removal tool since most of the fine fuel is reduced from the soil surface. However, prescribed burnings, not only reduce the vegetal fuel, but also may alter plant-soil inter phase, such as surface soil seed banks or soil properties. The objective of the current study is to evaluate the prescribed burnings disturbance in soil properties specifically on water repellency and soil hydraulic conductivity. In spring of 2016, three prescribed burnings were conducted in three forest sites: (i) a mixed Pinus halepensis and P. Pinaster, (ii) a mixed P. pinaster and P. nigra ssp. salzmannii f, and (iii) a pure P. nigra ssp. salmannii. Six plots (three burned and three unburned) were established at each forest area. Hydraulic conductivity (minidisk infiltometer) and water repellency (water drop penetration time method) both were measured in two places by plot depending of vegetal coverture (dense vegetation and little vegetation) before and immediately after prescribed burnings following periodically during one year in the three forest areas. Our results showed that both water repellency and soil infiltration significantly increased immediately after the burning in comparison to control plots. Two month after fire passage, water repellency was similar to control plots while hydraulic conductivity continued significantly higher than control plots during several months. In spite of low intensity of burning, there was significant changes in the properties analyzed but, no differences related to density vegetation were found in relation to the studied soil properties.
Title: Assessing the effectiveness of three hillslope stabilization treatments for reducing runoff-erosion processes and controlling nutrient losses in fire-affected ecosystems
Authors: Jonay Neris, Stefan H. Doerr
Abstract: In the last decade major advances have been made in the field of hillslope stabilization treatments aimed at reducing runoff-erosion processes in fire-affected environments. However, the effect of these treatments on nutrient losses and their effectiveness in volcanic terrain have not been sufficiently evaluated to date. The objective of this paper is to fill these knowledge gaps by testing wood shreds mulch, pine needles mulch and polyacrylamide (PAM) as post-fire treatments. Rainfall simulations were conducted in two fire-affected sites in Tenerife (Spain) and runoff samples analysed to evaluate the effect of the stabilization treatments on nutrient losses. The results highlighted the effectiveness of the wood shred and needle mulches to reduce runoff and erosion processes. Both treatments significantly increased infiltration rate and decreased runoff coefficient, sediment yield and sediment concentration in the runoff in comparison to the control areas. PAM, however, reduced the infiltration and promoted the runoff processes, although it had no effect on the erosion response. Only the wood shred mulch showed a significant impact on nutrient losses, reducing the concentration and amount of ions transported by runoff. These findings highlight the effectiveness of the wood-based mulch for reducing runoff-erosion processes and preventing soil degradation.
Title: Analytical empirical modeling of infiltration ditches as a mechanism for the restoration of watersheds in post-fire phase
Authors: J.L. Araya Silva, R. Atero Montes, S. Francke
Abstract: Forest fires annually devastate hundreds of hectares in the Central South of Chile, generating economic losses, loss of plant biodiversity and causing severe alterations in the upper strata of the soils, causing them to lose their capacity to generate goods and services. Given this scenario, the restoration of watersheds is installed as a socio-environmental paradigm of the first order to restore the watersheds to their initial states in such a way that it can face on its own the erosive processes that are produced by the alterations generated by a wildfire. In order to confront this scenario, we propose the empirical analytical modeling of infiltration ditches; based on linearized and non-linearized dynamic models to determine the heights and outflow levels of the trenches. These models allow to establish the operating schemes for phenomena of water infiltration and decrease of sedimentation in the post fire phase.
Title: Effect of salvage logging on soil hydrological behaviour in a Mediterranean forest recently affected by a wildfire
Authors: J. Mataix-Solera, K. Chrenková, P. Dlapa, V. Arcenegui, P. Arnaiz, F. García-Orenes, A. Cerdá, E. García-Sánchez
Abstract: In Mediterranean areas, water availability for plants is the main limiting factor for ecosystem restoration after fire. Post-fire management can have a negative impact on the soils that in some cases is even more severe than the fire itself. Salvage logging (SL) is a common management technique in fire-affected areas, but carrying it out, by using heavy machinery, leads to a consequent increase in the vulnerability to erosion and soil degradation. We monitored some soil properties in an area affected by a big forest fire (>500 has) in July 2012. The study area is located in the “Sierra de Mariola Natural Park”, Alicante (E Spain). The forest was composed mainly of Pinus halepensis trees with an understory of typical Mediterranean shrub species. The soil was classified as a Typic Xerorthent developed from Miocene marls. In February 2013, the SL treatment, comprising a complete extraction of the burnt wood using heavy machinery, was applied in a part of the affected forest. Plots for monitoring were installed and in a similar nearby area there was no treatment (control C) for comparison. Soil samplings were done immediately after treatment and every 6 months. We found that all soil properties were negatively affected by SL treatment compared with C plots: a progressive decrease with time of soil organic matter content, microbial biomass, soil respiration, aggregate stability, water holding capacity and an increase in bulk density were observed. In May 2014, undisturbed soil cores (100 cm3) from both treatments (C and SL) were taken in order to study water retention curves. Results showed differences between treatments, most likely due to differences in the pore size distribution of soils and the strong influence of parent material. The underlying marl rocks contain only very fine pores and thus they are “impermeable” once saturated with water. The water does not infiltrate into these rocks but flows down the surface and increases the erosion. The soil samples from SL treatments have higher content of coarse pores and thus they retain more water under wet conditions compared C samples where the humus horizon is preserved. But they have a lowered ability to retain water at high water tension in dry conditions. The soil samples from C plots showed the best properties. The soils have relatively stable structure and higher content of finer pores and thus the soil retains more water in dry conditions compared to the eroded soil at SL plots.
In addition to laboratory analyses, we studied the soil hydrological behaviour under field conditions using the portable rainfall simulator designed by Kamphorst (1987). Rainfall simulations (n=15) were performed comparing control plots (C), where no treatment was applied, over bare soil in salvage logging treatment area (BSL) which represents more than 50% of surface, and after applying a mulch of pine needles (MPN) in BSL area. Data obtained from rainfall simulation experiments showed that time to runoff was less in control area than in BSL and MPN plots, but not very significant differences were observed between treatments. However, percentage of runoff and soil erosion rates showed significant differences between control and others. Bare soil in salvage logging area showed mean values of runoff and erosion much more higher than in control plots. The application of a mulch of pine needles considerably reduced these values, especially for erosion but mean values measured were still higher than in control plots, indicating that despite protecting the soil with a mulching, soil properties still control the hydrological response.
Title: Strategies and policies for post-fire forest management in China
Authors: Caifang Luo, Zehao Shen, Lingxiao Ying
Abstract: Post-fire forest management is critical for habitat protection, forest regeneration and sustainability of ecosystem in the burned area. Fire is a common disturbance in forests of China, mostly caused by human activities, but post-fire forest management as a science-based practice has started only in the last decade, and the studies of ecological effects of post-fire forest management are still inadequate and sparse. In this paper, we reviewed the policy development for forest fire prevention and post-fire forest management in China, meta-analyzed the studies of post-fire forest management as both the traditional practices and as modern forest management strategies, and then summarized the effect of post-fire management measures on fire-prone ecosystem, with regard to habitat conservation and forest regeneration. For those studies of post-fire forest management that published in both Chinese and English journals since 1990, over 70% were about the boreal forests in Northeast China, which is a part of the taiga forest zone extending across the temperate Eurasia, and 20% for subtropical forests that is characterized by monsoon climate with a prominent dry season. The annual records of forest fires in these two regional, however, constituted 15% and 70% of the annual number of all forest fires in China, respectively. The primary ecological impact of forest fire is forest swampiness in the boreal region, and soil erosion in the subtropical forests. In China, the traditional post-fire management measures applied mostly in the early post-fire stage, and focused on treatment of coarse woody debris, surface soil conservation and forest regeneration; while fuel management, fire predicting and monitoring has become the recent emphasis of post-fire management. The application of post-fire management measures depends on fire severity, burned area and habitat condition (e.g. climate and topography), as well as population density and social-economic condition in the surrounding area. In contrast to the strategies of the post-fire forest management in western countries, less importance has been put on biodiversity conservation in China, alternatively more efforts has been devoted to canopy recovering and economic utilization of the land emptied by the fires. Comparing with the giant investment in fire-fighting and fire prevention propaganda in China, the capacity building of forest fire monitoring and dynamic fire-risk assessment is critical for post-fire forest management in the future.
Title: Direct seeding of Pinus halepensis Mill. to recover burned semi-arid forests: implications for post-fire management to improve natural regeneration
Authors: Francisco Antonio García-Morote, Eduardo Martínez-García, Manuela Andrés-Abellán, Eva Rubio, Heli Miettinen, Francisco Ramón López-Serrano
Abstract: Fire is a determinant factor playing a key role in the distribution of vegetation in the Mediterranean area. In Mediterranean conifer species, a critical component of the regeneration strategy after forest-fire is the initial seedling establishment in the burned stand. Pinus halepensis Mill. is a typical Mediterranean species well adapted to forest fires due to cone characteristics, seed ecology and physiology (light demanding species). However, under a semi-arid climate, which is characterized by extreme drought period, unfavorable weather conditions when the seed is spread (mainly in the first summer) may cause poor stand establishment, and consequently, subsequently risks of soil erosion and desertification. In this context, the planning of post-fire emergency soil management techniques not only would reduce the adverse effects of high-severity wildfires to soil but would increase the initial establishment of seedlings. Artificial regeneration, performed with direct seeding, could also be an alternative when natural succession becomes more difficult. Some of emergency post-fire soil treatments are contour felling (log erosion barriers: burned trees are cut down and the delimbed boles are placed on the contour to trap runoff and sediment), and left on-site coarse woody debris of crowns (branches) to erosion control, and provide organic matter to soil. In other treatments the dead wood is removed and chipped to reduce the risk of xylophagous proliferation, or the herb and shrubs are cleared, which could negatively affect new pine development and survival. Despite its importance to improve regeneration, information related to emergency post-fire soil treatment effects on seedling emergence in Mediterranean ecosystems is still very scarce, and studies that have focused on direct seeding of Pinus halepensis in semi-arid woodlands are practically non-existent. In this study we present the results of a seeding experiment to investigate the regeneration of this pine simulating post-fire treatments in the burned stand. Thus, the aim of this research is twofold: to propose a procedure of direct seeding that will help the regeneration of this species, while analyzing the effects of post-fire treatments on natural regeneration in semi-arid burned stands. This will allow us to make post-fire treatment recommendations to improve natural regeneration. The research were carried out in the mountain Sierra de Los Donceles (Southern Spain), burned in July 2012 (6,500 hectares approx.). This is the more unfavorable habitat of Pinus halepensis at world level (annual rainfall under 325 mm).The seeding were made installing spot seeding dropping a predetermined number of seeds (100) on a plot of 50 x 50 cm, and following 5 methods: (i) covering seeding by wood chips, (ii) seeding under crown debris (stacked burned branches), (iii) seeding along trunks disposed in contour felling (on the shade side), (iv) seeding under regenerate of shrubs, and (v) seeding on bare ground (control). The experiment was replicate in function of site quality (topographic condition) analyzing the factors: i) slope (2 levels: low 0-15% and high 20-40%), and ii) aspect (2 levels: north-shading and south slopes). Response variables analyzed (factorial experimental design in a General Linear Model; 95% probability level) were seed germination (%), and total seedling survival (plants) and mortality rate (%) after summer. The direct seeding were carried out in 8 blocks in which there were a combination of slope and exposure, as follows: 5 methods of seeding x 8 blocks x 4 replicates = 160 spot seeding. Seeding were made in late fall of 2014. Although direct seeding is a difficult regeneration tool in severe drought areas, our results showed that the wood chips as surface-covering material is the only treatment that significantly improved both seed germination and seedling survival when comparing with control, in all quality site (16.2±2.3 % vs. 5.8±1,5 %, and 6.6±1.2 plants vs. 2.4±1.2 plants, respectively; p<0.05). In addition, mortality was significantly reduced by about 10% in this treatment compared to control (p<0.05). Therefore our results suggest that it would be recommendable to chip the dead wood within the burned stand to leave the chips on the ground as a post-fire treatment to improve natural regeneration in Pinus halepensis. In this sense, seeding could be protected with wood chips to achieve greater success when artificial regeneration (direct seeding) of this conifer in semi-arid environments is proposed.