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Fall rate of burnt pines across an elevational gradient in a Mediterranean mountain

Molinas-González, Carlos R., Leverkus, Alexandro B., Marañón-Jiménez, Sara, Castro, Jorge
European journal of forest research 2017 v.136 no.3 pp. 401-409
Pinus, altitude, climatic factors, ecosystems, forest restoration, habitats, mountains, plantations, reforestation, snags, tree and stand measurements, trees, wildfires, winter, wood
Burnt wood remaining after a wildfire is a biological legacy with important implications for habitat structure, ecosystem regeneration, and post-fire management. Knowledge of the time required for snags to fall is thus a key aspect for planning forest restoration. In this study, we analyze the fall rate of burnt trees in a Mediterranean pine reforestation. Three plots of 18–32 ha were established after a fire across an elevational gradient spanning from 1400 to 2100 m a.s.l., and snag fall rate was measured on a yearly basis using an experimental setup that considered two levels of a thinning treatment: unthinned (where no post-fire management was conducted and all the snags were left standing after the fire) and thinned (where 90% of the trees were cut after the fire and left on the ground). All the snags remained standing during the first and second winter, and thereafter, they collapsed quickly until reaching 100% after 5.5 years. Snags in low-density stands resulting from thinning fell faster than in unthinned stands, but the differences were minor. There was a negative effect of tree diameter on the rate of collapse, especially in the unthinned treatment, but the effect of diameter was minor too. There was no effect of the elevational gradient on fall rate despite patent differences in climatic conditions and pine species across plots. The results support the contention that post-fire fall rate in dense pine plantations in Mediterranean mountains can occur quickly after the second winter and may show little variation across environmental gradients.