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Forests 2017, 8(9), 333; doi:10.3390/f8090333

Changes in Soil Quality and Hydrological Connectivity Caused by the Abandonment of Terraces in a Mediterranean Burned Catchment

1
Department of Geography, University of the Balearic Islands, E-07122 Palma, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
2
Institute of Agro-Environmental and Water Economy Research—INAGEA, University of the Balearic Islands, E-07122 Palma, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
3
Departamento de Ciencia y Tecnología Agroforestal y Genética, Universidad de Castilla la Mancha. Campus Universitario s/n, E-02071 Albacete, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 June 2017 / Revised: 24 August 2017 / Accepted: 7 September 2017 / Published: 8 September 2017
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Abstract

Wildfires and agricultural activities are relevant factors affecting soil quality, hydrological cycle and sedimentary dynamics. Land abandonment leads to afforestation, which increases fire risk and land degradation. However, no studies have yet evaluated the effect of combining the two factors, which occur frequently in Mediterranean ecosystems. This study assessed the changes in soil quality caused by the abandonment of terraces in two microcatchments (<2.5 ha) affected distinctly by wildfires (once and twice burned) and in an unburned control microcatchment by analyzing soil quality parameters, biochemical indices and spatial patterns of hydrological and sediment connectivity. Soil samples were collected in thirty-six plots (25 m2) representing terraced and non-terraced areas within these microcatchments. Unburned non-terraced plots had higher organic matter content and higher microbiological and enzymatic activities than other plots. Plots in abandoned terraces had lower soil quality indices, regardless of the fire effect. Land abandonment induced changes in the spatial patterns of hydrological connectivity, leading to concentrated runoff, enhanced erosion and soil degradation. Fire also negatively affected soil quality in both terraced and non-terraced plots. However, microbiological communities had different positive post-fire recovery strategies (growth and activity), depending on the previous soil conditions and land uses, which is indicative of the resilience of Mediterranean soil ecosystems. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil quality; hydrological connectivity; terraces; wildfires; land abandonment soil quality; hydrological connectivity; terraces; wildfires; land abandonment
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Calsamiglia, A.; Lucas-Borja, M.E.; Fortesa, J.; García-Comendador, J.; Estrany, J. Changes in Soil Quality and Hydrological Connectivity Caused by the Abandonment of Terraces in a Mediterranean Burned Catchment. Forests 2017, 8, 333.

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