Dead wood remaining after wildfires represents a biological legacy for forest regeneration, and its decay is both cause and consequence of a large set of ecological processes. However, the rate of wood decomposition after fires is still poorly understood, particularly for Mediterranean-type ecosystems. In this study, we analyzed deadwood decomposition following a wildfire in a Mediterranean pine plantation in the Sierra Nevada Natural and National Park (southeast Spain). Three plots were established over an elevational/species gradient spanning from 1477 to 2053 m above sea level, in which burnt logs of three species of pines were experimentally laid out and wood densities were estimated five times over ten years. The logs lost an overall 23% of their density, although this value ranged from an average 11% at the highest-elevation plot (dominated by Pinus sylvestris
) to 32% at an intermediate elevation (with P. nigra
). Contrary to studies in other climates, large-diameter logs decomposed faster than small-diameter logs. Our results provide one of the longest time series for wood decomposition in Mediterranean ecosystems and suggest that this process provides spatial variability in the post-fire ecosystem at the scale of stands due to variable speeds of decay. Common management practices such as salvage logging diminish burnt wood and influence the rich ecological processes related to its decay.
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