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Post-fire management impact on natural forest regeneration through altered microsite conditions

Author(s): Enrico Marcolin, Raffaella Marzano, Alessandro Vitali, Matteo Garbarino, Emanuele Lingua
Year Published: 2019

High severity stand-replacing wildfires can deeply affect forest ecosystems whose composition includes plant species lacking fire-related traits and specific adaptations. Land managers and policymakers need to be aware of the importance of properly managing these ecosystems, adopting post-disturbance interventions designed to reach management goals, and restoring the required ecosystem services. Recent research frequently found that post-fire salvage logging negatively affects natural regeneration dynamics, thereby altering successional pathways due to a detrimental interaction with the preceding disturbance. In this study, we compared the effects of salvage logging and other post-disturbance interventions (adopting different deadwood management strategies) to test their impact on microclimatic conditions, which potentially affect tree regeneration establishment and survival. After one of the largest and most severe wildfires in the Western Alps that affected stand-replacing behavior (100% tree mortality), a mountain forest dominated by Pinus sylvestris L., three post-fire interventions were adopted (SL-Salvage Logging, logging of all snags; CR-Cut and Release, cutting snags and releasing all deadwood on the ground; NI-No Intervention, all snags left standing). The differences among interventions concerning microclimatic conditions (albedo, surface roughness, solar radiation, soil moisture, soil temperature) were analyzed at different spatial scales (site, microsite). The management interventions influenced the presence and density of safe sites for regeneration. Salvage logging contributed to the harsh post-fire microsite environment by increasing soil temperature and reducing soil moisture. The presence of deadwood, instead, played a facilitative role in ameliorating microclimatic conditions for seedlings. The CR intervention had the highest soil moisture and the lowest soil temperature, which could be crucial for seedling survival in the first post-fire years. Due to its negative impact on microclimatic conditions affecting the availability of preferential microsites for regeneration recruitment, salvage logging should not be considered as the only intervention to be applied in post-fire environments. In the absence of threats or hazards requiring specific management actions (e.g., public safety, physical hazards for facilities), in the investigated ecosystems, no intervention, leaving all deadwood on site, could result in better microclimatic conditions for seedling establishment. A preferred strategy to speed-up natural processes and further increase safe sites for regeneration could be felling standing dead trees whilst releasing deadwood (at least partially) on the ground.

Citation: Marcolin, Enrico; Marzano, Raffaella; Vitali, Alessandro; Garbarino, Matteo; Lingua, Emanuele. 2019. Post-fire management impact on natural forest regeneration through altered microsite conditions. Forests 10(11):1014. https://doi.org/10.3390/f10111014
Topic(s): Post-fire Management, Recovery after fire, Resilience, Restoration
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20419
FRAMES RCS number: 59049
Record updated: Jan 26, 2020