Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems

A special issue of Fire (ISSN 2571-6255).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 9774

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Guest Editor
Nuoro Forestry School, Department of Agriculture, University of Sassari, 07100 Sassari, Italy
Interests: fire; ecology; forest conservation; silviculture; fire ecology; vegetation; forest ecology; ecological restoration
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The growing risk of megafires and the loss of diversity and soil degradation, especially in areas with a Mediterranean climate, could be monitored and impacts limited through the application of different forest management strategies. Fire and fire ecology are among the best-studied topics in contemporary ecosystem ecology. Understanding fire effects and underlying principles is critical to reducing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfires and for the proper use of fire as an effective management tool toward management goals. In this context, a Special Issue is suggested which will consider the assessment of post-fire natural regeneration and fire effects, the short/medium-term monitoring of natural regeneration and soil and vegetation treatment techniques, the reproductive capacity of natural regeneration post-fire regeneration in resilient species and the role of forests as a key part of the carbon cycle. This includes different post-fire responses to fires with different degrees of severity, the theoretical and practical concept of forest vulnerability to fire and the consideration of post-fire forest management as a useful tool for the modification of stand structure as well as the optimization of economic return, biodiversity, recreational value and the microenvironment. Clearly, fire can shape ecosystem composition, structure and functions by selecting fire-adapted species and removing other susceptible species, releasing nutrients from the biomass and improving nutrient cycling, affecting soil properties through changing soil microbial activities and water relations, and creating heterogeneous mosaics, which in turn, can further influence fire behavior and ecological processes. Fire as a destructive force can rapidly consume a large amount of biomass and cause negative impacts such as post-fire soil erosion and water runoff, and air pollution; however, as a constructive force, fire is also responsible for maintaining the health and perpetuity of certain fire-dependent ecosystems. The effects of fire on an ecosystem depend on the fire regime, vegetation type, climate, physical environments and the scale of time and space of assessment. More ecosystem-specific studies are needed in the future, especially those focusing on temporal and spatial variations of fire effects through long-term experimental monitoring and modeling.

This Special Issue aims to collect the most interesting scientific contributions in the context of a broad and fundamental research topic to apply post-fire restoration and recovery techniques in areas heavily damaged by fire.  Original research articles and reviews are welcome in this Special Issue. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Ecology;
  • Fire ecology;
  • Forestry, Hydraulic forestry management;
  • Restoration and recovery of the post-fire vegetation-soil system.

I look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Raffaella Lovreglio
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • fire
  • effects of fire
  • post fire impacts
  • fire damage on vegetation and soil
  • recovery and post fire restoration

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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25 pages, 11775 KiB  
Article
Fires and Clear-Cuttings as Local Areas of Arthropod Diversity in Polar Regions: Khibiny Mountains
by Irina V. Zenkova, Alla A. Ditts, Irina M. Shtabrovskaya and Anna A. Nekhaeva
Fire 2024, 7(6), 203; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7060203 - 17 Jun 2024
Viewed by 257
Abstract
The well-known phenomenon of attracting untypical animals to disturbed territories has been poorly investigated in the polar mountains. We studied arthropod diversity in self-healing industrial clear-cuts and burn areas in the Khibiny Mountains, Kola Polar region. Fieldworks were conducted at four sites, including [...] Read more.
The well-known phenomenon of attracting untypical animals to disturbed territories has been poorly investigated in the polar mountains. We studied arthropod diversity in self-healing industrial clear-cuts and burn areas in the Khibiny Mountains, Kola Polar region. Fieldworks were conducted at four sites, including a control mountain taiga forest and its three transformed variants: burnt forest, uncleared clear-cut, and twice-disturbed burnt clear-cut. Arthropods were collected using formalin traps 2–3, 5–6, and 8–9 years after industrial deforestation in 2012 and an extensive grass-roots fire in 2013. Out of 124 identified species (spiders—61; ground beetles—41; and rove beetles—22), 79 (or 64%) were collected in disturbed, primarily burned areas and were absent in control forest. We note ten species of rove beetles, nine species of ground beetles, and eight species of spiders for the first time in the well-studied arthropod fauna of the Khibiny Mts. We found that grass-root fires transform the soil vegetation covers in the polar mountain forests more powerfully in comparison with extensive deforestation and attract a greater diversity of arthropods with different preferences, enriching the fauna of the polar mountains and the Subarctic region as a whole. The attraction effect persists for, at least, a decade after the violations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
13 pages, 1330 KiB  
Article
Promoting Optimal Habitat Availability by Maintaining Fine-Grained Burn Mosaics: A Modelling Study in an Australian Semi-Arid Temperate Woodland
by Ben J. French, Brett P. Murphy and David M. J. S. Bowman
Fire 2024, 7(6), 172; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7060172 - 21 May 2024
Viewed by 545
Abstract
The pyrodiversity–biodiversity (P–B) hypothesis posits that spatiotemporally variable fire regimes increase wildlife habitat diversity, and that the fine-grained mosaics resulting from small patchy fires enhance biodiversity. This logic underpins the patch mosaic burning (PMB) paradigm and reinforces the benefits of Indigenous fire management, [...] Read more.
The pyrodiversity–biodiversity (P–B) hypothesis posits that spatiotemporally variable fire regimes increase wildlife habitat diversity, and that the fine-grained mosaics resulting from small patchy fires enhance biodiversity. This logic underpins the patch mosaic burning (PMB) paradigm and reinforces the benefits of Indigenous fire management, which tends to promote pyrodiversity. However, tests of the P–B hypothesis and PMB paradigm are few. One of the most comprehensive field evaluations—a snapshot study of pre-existing fire mosaics in south-east Australian semi-arid mallee eucalypt woodlands—found little support. To explore the longer-term effects of fire mosaic grain size on habitat availability and biodiversity, we combined published data from the mallee study with a simple fire simulation. We simulated 500 years of landscape burning under different fire sizes. In the resulting mosaics, we assessed the proportional mixture and patch configuration of successional habitat states, then summarised habitat availability through time using a composite index based on the published fire history responses of 22 vertebrate taxa from the mallee study. Small fires formed fine-grained mosaics with a stable habitat mixture and with habitat diversity occurring at fine scales. Large fires formed coarse-grained mosaics with the opposite properties. The fine-grained mosaics maintained optimal habitat availability for vertebrate diversity over 500 years, while the fluctuating habitat mixture in the coarse-grained mosaics was unlikely to maintain maximum vertebrate diversity. Broadly, our results support the P–B hypothesis and justify further field-testing and evaluation of PMB programs to manage both pyrodiversity and biodiversity in the mallee and other flammable landscapes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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18 pages, 1343 KiB  
Article
Medium-Term Comparative Effects of Prescribed Burning and Mechanical Shredding on Soil Characteristics in Heathland and Shrubland Habitats: Insights from a Protected Natural Area
by Rosa M. Cadenas, Fernando Castedo-Dorado and Luz Valbuena
Fire 2024, 7(5), 160; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7050160 - 5 May 2024
Viewed by 909
Abstract
Parts of the Cantabrian Mountains (N Spain) have been colonized by woody species in the past six or seven decades as a result of a decline in livestock activity and changes in the fire regime. Various management strategies have been used to prevent [...] Read more.
Parts of the Cantabrian Mountains (N Spain) have been colonized by woody species in the past six or seven decades as a result of a decline in livestock activity and changes in the fire regime. Various management strategies have been used to prevent the expansion of shrubs and recover grassland ecosystems for grazing activities. However, it is not clear how different vegetation treatments affect soils, which are crucial in supporting life and providing nutrients in these ecosystems. The aim of the present study was to compare the dynamics of the physicochemical and biological soil properties after two vegetation treatments: prescribed burning and shredding. Samples were obtained from plots representing alkaline and acidic soils dominated by gorse shrub (Genista hispanica subsp. occidentalis) and heath (Calluna vulgaris) plant communities, respectively. The soil samples were collected immediately before and after the treatments and one and two years later. The level of available P varied depending on the soil pH, and it only increased after the treatments in the acidic soils in the heathland community. The total N and available P concentrations were higher after the prescribed burning, and the enzymatic activity tended to be higher after the shredding treatment. Despite the significant effects on some soil variables, prescribed burning and shredding did not have important short- and medium-term effects on the chemical and soil enzymatic properties. These treatments can therefore be considered sustainable vegetation management tools, at least in the medium term. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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22 pages, 3982 KiB  
Article
Short-Interval, High-Severity Wildfire Depletes Diversity of Both Extant Vegetation and Soil Seed Banks in Fire-Tolerant Eucalypt Forests
by Sabine Kasel, Thomas A. Fairman and Craig R. Nitschke
Fire 2024, 7(4), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7040148 - 19 Apr 2024
Viewed by 1246
Abstract
Many plant species are well-adapted to historical fire regimes. An increase in the severity, frequency, and extent of wildfires could compromise the regenerative capacity of species, resulting in permanent shifts in plant diversity. We surveyed extant vegetation and soil seed banks across two [...] Read more.
Many plant species are well-adapted to historical fire regimes. An increase in the severity, frequency, and extent of wildfires could compromise the regenerative capacity of species, resulting in permanent shifts in plant diversity. We surveyed extant vegetation and soil seed banks across two forest types with contrasting historical fire regimes—Shrubby Dry Forest (fire return interval: 10–20 years) and Sub-Alpine Woodland (50–100 years). Over the past 20 years, both forests have been subject to repeated, high-severity wildfires at intervals significantly shorter than their historical return intervals. We examined the soil seed bank response to fire-cued germination, and whether the plant diversity in soil seed banks and extant vegetation demonstrated similar responses to short-interval, high-severity wildfires. The soil seed bank demonstrated a positive response to heat in combination with smoke, and for the Sub-Alpine Woodland, this was limited to sites more frequently burnt by fire. With an increase in fire frequency, there was a decline in species richness and Shannon’s Diversity and a shift in species composition in both extant vegetation and the soil seed bank. The fire frequency effects on the relative richness of trait associations were restricted to the Shrubby Dry Forest, and included an increase in short-lived obligate seeders, wind-dispersed species, and ant-dispersed shrubs in burnt relative to long unburnt sites in both extant vegetation and the soil seed bank. Graminoids were the most abundant component of the soil seed banks of Sub-Alpine Woodlands, and this increased with more frequent fire, with a similar trend (p = 0.06) in extant vegetation. Clear shifts in plant diversity in both soil seed banks and extant vegetation in forest types with contrasting historical fire regimes suggest that emerging fire regimes are pushing ecosystems beyond their historical range of variability, including potentially more flammable states and a decline in the buffering capacity of soil seed banks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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17 pages, 9940 KiB  
Article
The House Is Burning: Assessment of Habitat Loss Due to Wildfires in Central Mexico
by Carlos Alberto Mastachi-Loza, Jorge Paredes-Tavares, Rocio Becerril-Piña, María de Lourdes Ruiz-Gómez, Carlos Alejandro Rangel Patiño and Carlos Diaz-Delgado
Fire 2024, 7(4), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7040134 - 12 Apr 2024
Viewed by 1134
Abstract
Fire suppression and climate change have increased the frequency and severity of wildfires, but the responses of many organisms to wildfire are still largely unknown. In this study, we assessed the risk of habitat loss for amphibians, mammals, and reptiles caused by wildfires [...] Read more.
Fire suppression and climate change have increased the frequency and severity of wildfires, but the responses of many organisms to wildfire are still largely unknown. In this study, we assessed the risk of habitat loss for amphibians, mammals, and reptiles caused by wildfires in central Mexico. We accomplished this by: (1) determining the likelihood of wildfire occurrence over a 12-year period using historical records and the Poisson probability mass function to pinpoint the most susceptible areas to wildfire; (2) evaluating species exposure by identifying natural land use that aligns with the potential distribution areas of biodiversity; (3) assessing species vulnerability based on the classifications established by the IUCN and CONABIO. Our findings have unveiled three regions exhibiting a concentration of high-risk values. Among these, two are positioned near major urban centers, while the third lies in the southeastern sector of the Nevado de Toluca protection area. Amphibians emerged as the taxonomic group most severely impacted, with a substantial number of species falling within the Critically Endangered and Endangered categories, closely followed by mammals and reptiles. Furthermore, we have identified a correlation between the location of risk zones and agricultural areas. This study revealed hotspots that can offer valuable guidance for strategic initiatives in fire-prone regions associated to the potential distribution of amphibians, mammals, and reptiles. Moreover, future studies should contemplate integrating field data to enhance our comprehension of the actual effects of wildfires on the spatial distribution of these animal groups. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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15 pages, 2334 KiB  
Article
Exploring Tree Density Increases after Fire Exclusion in the Northern Front Range and Great Plains, Colorado, USA
by Brice B. Hanberry, Jacob M. Seidel and Phillip DeLeon
Fire 2024, 7(4), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7040103 - 22 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1075
Abstract
Since Euro-American settlement and associated fire exclusion, grasslands and open forests have converted to forests throughout the United States. Contributing to the weight of evidence, we determined if forestation also occurred in forests and grasslands of Colorado. Our study extent encompassed landscapes of [...] Read more.
Since Euro-American settlement and associated fire exclusion, grasslands and open forests have converted to forests throughout the United States. Contributing to the weight of evidence, we determined if forestation also occurred in forests and grasslands of Colorado. Our study extent encompassed landscapes of the 0.5 million ha Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in the northern Front Range (eastern side) of the southern Rocky Mountains and the 1 million ha Weld County, which contains Pawnee National Grassland, in the Great Plains grasslands. We quantified tree composition, cover, and densities from historical (years 1863 to 1886) tree surveys, current surveys (2002 to 2011), and land cover (2016) to identify departures. In the Arapaho and Roosevelt, historical lack of tree presence and overall low tree densities suggested an open landscape, due to about 70% of 7134 survey points without two trees within 60 m. The treed landscape, which was not continuously forested, had density estimates of about 153 trees/ha. In contrast, the current landscape was 68% forested with high tree densities; fire-dependent pines decreased relative to subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) increases. In Weld County, seven trees were surveyed historically, whereas currently, woody cover totaled 2555 ha. Uniquely applying historical surveys at landscape scales, we documented an open landscape in the northern Front Range, unlike previous research, and rare tree presence in the relatively understudied grasslands of Colorado. Forestation corresponded with changes in U.S. grasslands and forests following Euro-American settlement and associated fire exclusion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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14 pages, 1178 KiB  
Article
The Interacting Influence of Fire and Tree Characteristics on Douglas-Fir Beetle Host-Tree Selection Five Years Post-Fire
by Matt Young, Michael Remke and Julie Korb
Fire 2024, 7(3), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7030064 - 23 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1176
Abstract
Fire injury stresses Douglas-fir trees (Pseudotsuga menziesii) that survive a wildfire event, allowing subsequent Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) infection to kill trees that may have otherwise survived. This study aimed to determine how fire injury, stand, and tree characteristics drive [...] Read more.
Fire injury stresses Douglas-fir trees (Pseudotsuga menziesii) that survive a wildfire event, allowing subsequent Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) infection to kill trees that may have otherwise survived. This study aimed to determine how fire injury, stand, and tree characteristics drive Douglas-fir beetle host tree selection five years post-fire. We paired 28 adjacent beetle-infected and uninfected stands (infected N = 14) and 140 Douglas-fir trees (infected N = 70) within the 416 Fire burn area in Southwest Colorado. We found no statistically significant differences between infected and uninfected stand characteristics. Individual tree height, DBH, and bark char severity index were significantly higher in infected versus uninfected trees. We created a regression decision tree model to determine the influence of fire injury and tree characteristics on the probability of infection. Trees with a height ≥ 27 m, bark char height < 2.3 m, and DBH < 80 cm had the greatest probability of attack (100%). Trees with a height < 27 m, bark char severity index < 5.5, and DBH < 49 cm had the lowest probability of attack (3.7%). Understanding the influence of fire on Douglas-fir beetle host selection allows land managers to model potential epidemic outbreaks and guide proactive management actions that may reduce beetle outbreak severity or preserve high-value trees not killed by fire. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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25 pages, 3989 KiB  
Article
Birds of the Burn: Avian Community and Functional Guild Variation Five Years Post-Fire in Warm–Dry Mixed Conifer, Southwest Colorado
by Luke A. Scott and Julie E. Korb
Fire 2024, 7(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7030062 - 21 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1805
Abstract
Birds contribute to the trophic interactions within mixed conifer ecosystems and provide a suite of services, such as nutrient transport, seed dispersal, habitat creation, and insect regulation. Avian communities vary in response to the structure and composition of their habitat, which may be [...] Read more.
Birds contribute to the trophic interactions within mixed conifer ecosystems and provide a suite of services, such as nutrient transport, seed dispersal, habitat creation, and insect regulation. Avian communities vary in response to the structure and composition of their habitat, which may be drastically altered by fire, the predominant disturbance of western mixed conifer forests. We conducted avian point count surveys during the peak breeding season, five years post-fire, across four burn severities (unburned, low, moderate, and high) within the 416 Fire perimeter, a 55,000-acre mixed-severity fire that burned near Durango, Colorado in 2018. Avian communities in each burn severity were evaluated for richness, diversity, differentiation, indicator species, and functional guild composition. Species assemblages were significantly different across all burn severities, excluding the low to moderate areas comparison, with differentiation driven by live tree and snag density. Avian species’ richness and diversity were not significantly different across burn severities, highlighting the importance of utilizing multivariate community analysis. Unburned and high-burn areas had significant variation in functional guilds and numerous indicator species. This study provides evidence of avian community differentiation by burn severity, suggesting that management practices promoting heterogenous stand structure in warm–dry mixed conifer will positively influence avian biodiversity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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Review

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17 pages, 5519 KiB  
Review
Current Status of Research on Wildland Fire Impacts on Soil Environment and Soil Organisms and Hotspots Visualization Analysis
by Zhichao Cheng, Song Wu, Dan Wei, Hong Pan, Xiaoyu Fu, Xinming Lu and Libin Yang
Fire 2024, 7(5), 163; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire7050163 - 7 May 2024
Viewed by 667
Abstract
Ecosystems are frequently disturbed by fires that have an important impact on the soil environment and the composition of soil organisms. In order to provide a baseline for the current research and identify trends on the effects of wildland fire on soil environment [...] Read more.
Ecosystems are frequently disturbed by fires that have an important impact on the soil environment and the composition of soil organisms. In order to provide a baseline for the current research and identify trends on the effects of wildland fire on soil environment and biological changes, the available literature was identified from the Web of Science database, covering the period from 1998/1998/1999 (the year of the earliest publication in this field) to 2023. A bibliometric analysis was performed and the data were visually displayed for the number of publications, countries, authors, research institutions, and keywords representing research hotspots. Specifically, the effects of wildland fire on the soil environment, on soil microorganisms and on soil fauna were analyzed. The results show that the annual number of publications describing effects of wildland fire on the soil environment and on soil microorganisms are increasing over time, while those describing effects on soil fauna are fewer and their number remains constant. The largest number of papers originate from the United States, with the United States Department of Agriculture as the research institution with the largest output. The three authors with the largest number of publications are Stefan H. Doerr, Manuel Esteban Lucas-Borja and Jan Jacob Keizer. The research hotspots, as identified by keywords, are highly concentrated on wildfire, fire, organic matter, and biodiversity, amongst others. This study comprehensively analyzes the current situation of the research on the effects of wildland fire on changes in the soil environment and organisms, and provides reference for relevant scientific researchers in this trend and future research hotspots. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Fires on Forest Ecosystems)
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