Posts Tagged ‘postfire’

Postfire management in Turkey

January 27th, 2022 No 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


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

[2] Marmaris postfire regeneration,

Marmaris postfire regeneration

December 5th, 2021 No comments

During last summer, over 170,000 ha burnt in Turkey. One of these fires was the Marmaris fire, a fire of about 12,500 ha in SW of the country. The area includes part of the Marmaris National Park and an Special Environmental Protection Area. Most of the area were covered by Pinus brutia forests, a Mediterranean pine that has some serotinous cones.

Four months after the Marmaris fire, I visited the area together with Çagatay Tavsanoglu. Some plants were resprouting and some geophytes flowering (Cyclamen, Arisarum). Pine seedlings had started to germinate; there were also many other seedlings but still too small to identify them (e.g., Cistus species). Below are a few examples of plants that were regenerating after the fire (click on the photos to enlarge them).


Carob tree postfire: fire severity

October 19th, 2021 No comments

One of the major factors generating dynamic in Euro-Mediterranean landscapes is rural abandonment and the consequent expansion of oldfields [1]. This oldfields are been colonized by fast-growing flammable plants, and this has occurred now for few decades [2]. Thus wildfires often spread through oldfields [2], and in fact the increasing of oldfields is the main driver of the increased fire activity in Spain since the 70’s [2]. One example of Mediterranean crop is the Carob tree [1]. Carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua; Fabaceae) are evergreen tree that produce edible pods, used in the past mainly as animal fodder; currently it is also used as substitute for chocolate (pods are sweet; in fact they can be eaten raw from the tree).

A recent wildfire in Azuébar (August 2021, eastern Spain) burned a landscape that had many abandoned Carob tree groves. These trees burned at a range of seventies (degree of consumption). So perhaps, by looking at the carob trees across the burned landscape we could map the severity of a wildfire! In the past we estimated fire severity using the degree of consumption of the pine canopy (Pinus halepensis) [3].

Pictures taken in September 2021, one month after the Azuébar fire.

Figure 1. Carob tree unburned (top left) and burned with different severity: with leaves unconsumed (top right), with leaves consumed (mid left), with main trunk consumed (mid right), with most wood consumed (bottom, left), with everything consumed (bottom right). All pictures taken 1 month after a fire in Azuébar, eastern Spain. Photos: JG Pausas.


[1] Pausas JG, Bonet A, Maestre FT, Climent A. 2006. The role of the perch effect on the nucleation process in Mediterranean semi-arid oldfields. Acta Oecol. 29: 346-352. [pdf] [doi] [ScienceDirect]  

[2] Pausas JG & Fernández-Muñoz S. 2012. Fire regime changes in the Western Mediterranean Basin: from fuel-limited to drought-driven fire regime. Climatic Change 110: 215-226. [doi | springer | pdf]

[3] Pausas, J.G., Ouadah, N., Ferran, A., Gimeno, T. & Vallejo, R. 2003. Fire severity and seedling establishment in Pinus halepensis woodlands, eastern Iberian Peninsula. Plant Ecol. 169: 205-213 . [doi | pdf]

The cleaning effect of fire: Lizards & parasites

July 14th, 2021 No comments

Early humans and native cultures have used fire for clearing the ground from parasites and diseases, and some agricultural societies use fire to reduce livestock diseases [1,2]. In such cases, fire provide an ecosystem service to humans [2]. We recently asked to what extent this ‘cleaning effect‘ of fire is also observed in the wild, that is, whether wildfires may remove parasites and thus provide some benefits to wildlife [3]. To answer this question, we compared the presence of ecotoparasites (mites,Ophionyssus) in lizard populations of Psammodromus algirus living in recently burned areas with those in adjacent unburned areas, in eastern Spain. Our results suggest that many individuals of P. algirus survive fire (the smoke of the fire acts as a cue for quickly moving to safe microsites [4], e.g., crevices, under rocks, among roots; refugia [5]); and those that survived (and live in the postfire environment) have less ecotparasites (mites) than those living in unburned conditions. That is wildfires produce a ‘cleaning effect’ by reducing lizard ectoparasites in the postfire conditions. Fire, by disrupting the host-parasite interaction, provides a window of opportunity for lizards to avoid the negative effects of ectoparasites. We propose that wildfires likely fulfill a role in controlling vector-borne diseases and pathogens for other species, but this ecological effects have been largely overlooked.

Fig. 1. Probability of lizards infection by mites in relation to lizards’ size (snout-vent length) for recently burned areas (red) and for the corresponding paired unburned (blue). Lines are predicted values (and confidence intervals) from [3].
Fig. 2. Psammodromus algirus enjoying a clean (parasite-free) environment after a fire. Photo: Lola Álvarez-Ruiz
Fig. 3. Pictures of mites (genus Ophionyssus; in different stages) found under the scales of P. algirus, from [3]
Fig. 4. Art work on the paper by Josep Serra, 6/2021


[1] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E. 2009. A burning story: The role of fire in the history of life. BioScience 59: 593-601 [doi | OUP | pdf]

[2] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E. 2019. Wildfires as an ecosystem service. Front. Ecol. Environ. 17: 289-295. [doi | pdf]

[3] Álvarez-Ruiz L, Belliure J, Santos X., Pausas JG. 2021. Fire reduces parasite load in a Mediterranean lizard. Proceed. Royal Soc. B. [doi | pdfNew!

[4] Álvarez-Ruiz L, Belliure J, Pausas JG. 2021. Fire-driven behavioral response to smoke in a Mediterranean lizard. Behav. Ecol. [doi | oup | PDF]

[5] Pausas J.G. 2019. Generalized fire response strategies in plants and animals. Oikos 128: 147-153 [doi | pdf]

Pine serotiny

November 14th, 2020 No comments

Some days ago I asked this question on Twitter.

What is the difference between the top and bottom pine cones in this photo? This is a question I often ask to my new students in the first field trip; in this case, Beniardà fire, 2020 [link]

These cones are from Pinus halepensis and were collected after a wildfire in Beniardà (Alicante, E Spain; burned in Aug 2020).

Many of you reply correctly; here is the full answer:

Top cones: before the fire, they were open on on the tree, i.e., without seeds. Fire burn them, and so they are all black

Bottom cones (see also the picture below): before the fire they were closed (serotinous cones), and fire opened them facilitating seed dispersal. Note that they are unburned inside. These cones contribute to the postfire regeneration of the pine.

Serotinous cones in Pinus halepensis: before (left) and after a fire (right)



  • Lamont BB, Pausas JG, He T, Witkowski, ETF, Hanley ME. 2020. Fire as a selective agent for both serotiny and nonserotiny over space and time. Critical Reviews Plant Sci 39:140-172. [doi | pdf | suppl.]
  • Pausas JG. 2015. Evolutionary fire ecology: lessons learned from pines. Trends Plant Sci 20: 318-324. [doi | sciencedirect | cell | pdf]
  • Castellanos MC, González-Martínez S. & Pausas JG. 2015. Field heritability of a plant adaptation to fire in heterogeneous landscapes. Mol Ecol 24: 5633-5642. [doi | pdf | suppl.]
  • Hernández-Serrano A, Verdú M, González-Martínez SC, Pausas JG. 2013. Fire structures pine serotiny at different scales. Am J Bot 100: 2349-2356. [doi | amjbot | pdf | supp.]
  • Hernández-Serrano A, Verdú M, Santos-Del-Blanco L, Climent J, González-Martínez SC & Pausas JG. 2014. Heritability and quantitative genetic divergence of serotiny, a fire-persistence plant trait. Ann Bot 114: 571-577. [doi | pdf | suppl.]


More on serotiny: Serotiny: a review | Pinus brutia | Heritability of serotiny | Heritability of serotiny (2) | Evolutionary fire ecology in plants | Serotiny |

Postfire pollination resilience in Chamaerops humilis

July 18th, 2018 No comments

Fire may disrupt plant-animal interactions. In antagonistic interactions, this disruption may benefit one of the interacting species; for instance, the reduction of a seed predator after fire can benefit the host plant [1]. The question is what happen in mutualistic interactions? Does fire disrupt mutualistic interactions generating negative consequences for the interacting species?

The Mediterranean dwarf palm Chamaerops humilis is a small dioecious palm native to the coastal shrublands of the western Mediterranean Basin. It has a specialized nursery pollination system involving the weevil Derelomus chamaeropis (Curculionidae). The plant resprouts quickly after fires (from apical buds) and produces flowers the following spring [2]. Given the specialized nursery pollination systems, this plant is a good candidate to have their pollination disrupted by fire.

In a recent study [3] we found that after fire, their pollinator (the weevil), was strongly reduced, but the fruit set remained unchanged. We documented a second beetle, a sap beetle (Meligethinus pallidulus, Nitidulidae), that were not affected by fire and acted as an effective pollinator (in a non-nursery pollination system). The temporary replacement by a sap beetle at burnt sites – an effective pollinator that had gone unnoticed until now – provided postfire reproductive resilience. That is, fire does not disrupt pollination in this specialized plant-insect system.

This is an example of the “nature’s jazz hypothesis”, i.e., species have considerable scope and capacity to adapt to each other and their environments and thereby may impart far more resilience to environmental stressors and disturbances that was once thought [4].

The dwarf palm Chamaerops humilis is well adapted to recurrent shrubland fires (i.e., of high intensity). It resprouts quickly after fire from surviving apical buds; it has rhizomes from where new stems can emerge after disturbance (I suppose this is why Humboldt mentioned this species as a social palm [2]); and its pollination is not jeopardized by fire.

The mediterranean dwarf palm Chamaerops humilis flowering (male) 2 months after fire; Valencia region, Spain (photo: JG Pausas).



[1] García Y., Castellanos M.C. & Pausas J.G. 2016. Fires can benefit plants by disrupting antagonistic interactions. Oecologia 182, 1165–1173. [doi | pdf | post]

[2] Postfire resprouting of Chamaerops humilis,, 2016/03/18

[3] García, Y., Castellanos, M.C. & Pausas, J.G. 2018. Differential pollinator response underlies plant reproductive resilience after fires. Annals of Botany [doi | pdf]

[4] Schmitz, O. J. 2018. Species in ecosystems and all that jazz. – PLoS Biology 16: e2006285.

Update: paper now featured in Botany One: Plant-animal interactions deal with wildfires in unexpected ways

Odena: 9 meses posincendio

May 1st, 2016 No comments

El 27 de Julio de 2015 un incendio forestal afectó unas 1200 ha en Òdena (Anoia, Catalunya central), una zona dominada principalmente por pino carrasco (Pinus halepensis). Pocos días después ya se empezaba a ver un inicio de la regeneración del ecosistema [1, 2]. En una visita reciente (Abril 2016, 9 meses posincendio), vemos que en gran parte de la zona se han cortado y extraído los árboles quemados (y algunos no quemados). Antiguamente, cuando aun no se daba casi ningún valor a los ecosistemas naturales, y sí a la madera, se sacaban los árboles quemados para obtener algún beneficio económico; y algunas veces por motivos “estéticos”. Hoy en día, no parece una acción muy apropiada [3], a no ser que haya una razón de peso, cosa que desconozco en el caso de este incendio.

Los árboles quemados benefician a la regeneración porque retienen un poco el suelo, disminuyen el impacto de las gotas de lluvia en el suelo, mantienen cierta humedad, captan agua de la niebla, sirven de posadero para aves que traen semillas (que contribuyen a la regeneración), y son hábitat para fauna diversa [4]. Cortar los árboles requiere entrar con maquinaría en la zona quemada (con suelos muy sensibles), generar caminos y arrastrar troncos. Esto conlleva la eliminación de todos los beneficios mencionados, ademas de la disminución de parte del suelo y mantillo, la mortalidad de las primeras germinaciones posincendio (por ejemplo del pino), la formación de surcos que pueden ser puntos de inicio de erosión (cárcavas), y disminución de la regeneración natural en general. En general, entrar en una zona recién quemada, y degradar el ecosistema disminuyendo la regeneración y aumentando la erosión, está poco justificado [3]; en algunos casos, estas intervenciones pueden ser más perjudiciales que el propio incendio.

Fotos: a) Pinar con rebrotes de madroño 4 meses después del incendio, antes de cortar los árboles; se aprecia un cierto ambiente forestal. b) surcos del arrastre de troncos durante la extracción de la madera quemada. c) Ambiente 9 meses después del incendio, una vez se han cortado los árboles. d) Germinación de pino 4 meses después del incendio; germinaciones susceptibles a ser eliminadas si se entra con maquinaria o se arrastran troncos. e) pinos vivos (no quemados) cortados y apilados (9 meses posincendio). f) Enebro rojo (Juniperus oxycedrus) que rebrota tras quema y corta (9 meses posincendio). Incendio de Odena, Abril 2016 (fotos: JG Pausas).


[1] Odena fire: first visitors, 10-08-2015

[2] Odena fire: 55 days postfire, 17-10-2015

[3] Lo que no se debe hacer después de un incendio, 13-08-2015

[4] Pausas, J.G., Ribeiro, E. & Vallejo, R. 2004. Post-fire regeneration variability of Pinus halepensis in the eastern Iberian Peninsula. Forest Ecology and Management 203: 251-259. [doi | pdf]