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Impacts of Land Management on the Resilience of Mediterranean Dry Forests to Fire

Institute of Integrative Geography, University of Bern, Bern 3012, Switzerland
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Bern 3012, Switzerland
Mediterranean Centre for Environmental Studies (Foundation CEAM), Valencia 46980, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Vincenzo Torretta
Sustainability 2016, 8(10), 981;
Received: 26 July 2016 / Revised: 19 September 2016 / Accepted: 22 September 2016 / Published: 29 September 2016
Wildfires have always been a part of the history of Mediterranean forests. However, forests are not always certain to regenerate after a wildfire. Whether they do depends on many factors, some of which may be influenced by land management activities. Failure to regenerate will cause a regime shift in the ecosystem, reducing the provision of ecosystem services and ultimately leading to desertification. How can we increase the resilience of Mediterranean forests to fire? Our approach to answering this question was twofold: first, we reviewed the literature to investigate chains of processes that allowed forests to regenerate (which we label Regeneration Mechanisms, or RMs); and second, we assessed the impact of selected management practices documented in the WOCAT database on these RMs. For the assessment, we evaluated the relation between the benefits and disadvantages of the land management practices on the one hand, and the hindering and supporting factors of the RMs on the other. We identified three distinct RMs that enable Mediterranean forests to recover, as well as the time frame before and after a fire in which they are at work, and factors that can hinder or support resilience. The three RMs enabling a forest to regenerate after a fire consist of regeneration (1) from a seed bank; (2) from resprouting individuals; and (3) from unburned plants that escaped the fire. Management practices were grouped into four categories: (1) fuel breaks; (2) fuel management; (3) afforestation; and (4) mulching. We assessed how and under what conditions land management modifies the ecosystem’s resilience. The results show that land management influences resilience by interacting with resilience mechanisms before and after the fire, and not just by modifying the fire regime. Our analysis demonstrates a need for adaptive—i.e., context- and time-specific—management strategies. View Full-Text
Keywords: resilience; land management; wildfire; Mediterranean dry forest resilience; land management; wildfire; Mediterranean dry forest
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Jucker Riva, M.; Liniger, H.; Valdecantos, A.; Schwilch, G. Impacts of Land Management on the Resilience of Mediterranean Dry Forests to Fire. Sustainability 2016, 8, 981.

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