Plant Ecology and Evolution 146(3): 272-278, doi: 10.5091/plecevo.2013.848
Early post-fire plant succession in slash-pile prescribed burns of a sub-Mediterranean managed forest
expand article infoElena Castoldi, José R. Quintana, Ricardo G. Mata, José A. Molina
Open Access
Background and aims – This is the first report on early vegetation dynamics in prescribed slash-pile burns under a sub-Mediterranean climate. We studied a managed forest system of Pinus sylvestris plantations in the upper belt of Quercus pyrenaica forests in the Guadarrama Mountains (Spanish Central System). We investigated post-fire plant succession in order to assess how fire affects tree regeneration and species composition (vascular plants, bryophytes and fungi) in the first three years. Methods – Species composition, species cover, number of pine seedlings and ecological data were recorded in twenty slash-pile burnt plots and twenty control plots the first and second year after fire. To identify ecological indicators and examine post-fire succession, we determined Indicator Analysis and Neighbour Joining Tree, respectively. Wilcoxon's signed-ranks test and Spearman's coefficient of rank correlation were used to study the effects of fire on pine seedlings survival and its changes overtime. Principal Components Analysis was performed to assess the relationships between environmental and structural variables in burnt plots. Key results – The early plant community established after slash-pile prescribed burns was characterized by three pioneer species: Funaria hygrometrica (moss), Coltricia perennis and Psathyrella pennata (fungi). No taxonomical changes were detected in vascular plant families but there was an increased presence of therophytes and pine seedlings. Two early vegetation stages were identified relating to species richness and Funaria hygrometrica cover. Fire significantly increased pine seedlings density, which subsequently decreased overtime. Survival of one-year old pine seedlings was unrelated to the year of the burn. Conclusions – We highlight the importance of bryophyte and fungi species in comparison to seeder species as indicators of recent prescribed slash-pile burns under a sub-Mediterranean climate; and also point out the impact of prescribed slash-pile burns on pine seedling recruitment after the first years post-fire. This recruitment decelerates over time in burnt sites, and it is more pronounced in control plots.