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Postfire management in Turkey

January 27th, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

This post complements the letter published today in the Science [doi] – A version of that letter is also available in Turkish here.

Turkey was hit hard by wildfires in 2021, with a record of about 203,000 ha burnt. Most of the area burnt was covered by Mediterranean Pinus brutia forests. Pinus brutia is not a fire-resistant trees, it dies after a fire; however, they have serotinous cones thus after fire the seeds are dispersed and new individuals recruit few months later. This forest also includes many shrubs able to resprout or germinate after fire. Thus natural regeneration was expected in most of the affected area. In fact, 4 months after fire, we already observed pine seedlings and many species resprouting [link]. To preserve this ecosystems, it is important to preserve their regeneration potential. Usually, quick postfire management is only needed if soil losses are likely; in those environments, soil losses typically occurs in only a small proportion of the landscape.

However, the Turkish government is cutting all dead trees (salvage logging). In many places, heavy machinery is being used and forest roads are being opened. In some cases, logging is followed by seeding or by terracing and new tree planting. That is, in some places they are transforming an ecosystem to an artificial afforestation. Thus the postfire management actions are more disturbing than the fire. And these postfire actions are taking place in both unprotected public forests and in conservation areas (e.g. Marmaris National Park).

It is worth remembering that standing dead trees have many ecological functions such as to reduce the impact of raindrops on the ground (i.e., reducing erosion), maintain some humidity, capture water from fogs, serve as perches for birds that bring seeds and contribute to the regeneration, and are habitat for many fauna (mainly invertebrates and some birds). And when dead trees fall down, they provide organic matter and nutrients to the soil. 

We urge the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry to stop degrading ecosystems and move toward more ecologically sustainable forest management.

All photos below were Pinus brutia forests.

Postfire salvage logging + terracing + plantation in Marmaris National Park (see also this video)

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Postfire salvage logging of burned trees in the Marmaris area

 

Examples of destroying potential natural postfire regeneration in Antayla, Turkey. Click the image to enlarge. Photos: link

References

[1] Tavsanoglu, Ç. & Pausas J.G: 2022. Turkish postfire action overlooks biodiversity. Science [doi | pdf | Turkish version]

[2] Marmaris postfire regeneration, jgpausas.blogs.uv.es/2021/12/05/

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