Post of the month 06/2020: <br/>Postfire managing strategies in Mediterranean forest ecosystems: Lessons learned from research works developed at south of Spain
Figure 1. Postfire hydrological processes evaluation works in California

Since 2005, Manuel Esteban Lucas-Borja have been working on different research projects and teaching activities at Castilla La Mancha University (Spain). Nowadays, Manuel Esteban currently focus on postfire forest ecosystem management under the sustainability and multifunctionality principles within the context of climate change. Together with colleagues of the ECOFOR research group (Castilla La Mancha University), Manuel Esteban aims to better evaluate the effect of postfire management strategies on forest plant biodiversity, soil properties and multiple ecosystem functions, including nutrient cycling, climate regulation, waste decomposition, symbiosis, wood production and water regulation.

Figure 2. Postfire managing strategies commonly applied after wildfires: log erosion
barriers in Hellin (Albacete, Spain).

As generally stated, priorities in post-fire management include minimizing erosion and its effects on the soil properties by favoring an adequate forest structure and plant recovery. Frequently, hillslope stabilization techniques aim to avoid soil degradation by promoting lower runoff coefficients and erosion rates. Postfire hillslope treatments, such as grass seeding, log erosion barriers, contour-felled logs or mulching intend to reduce surface runoff and keep postfire soil in place on hillslopes by preventing subsequent deposition in unwanted areas. Contour-felled log debris and log erosion barriers built with dead fuel are commonly used as they facilitate the subsequent handling and use of forest, accelerate the decomposition and incorporation of processed material into soil, and subsequently reduce fuel load and help diminish erosion processes. However, ineffective log barriers construction or inadequate contour-felled log debris may generate flow and runoff concentration, thus enhancing soil erosion, soil degradation and uncomplimentary plant recovery.

Our studies have found that fire and postfire managing strategies affects single ecosystem processes such as decomposition rates and nutrient cycling. Our research has also demonstrated that postfire managing strategies (log barriers construction or inadequate contour-felled log debris) have an important effect on soil physicochemical or microbiological soil parameters, which a priori can improve edaphic conditions to help ecosystem functions rapidly recover. Developed research works also showed that fire significantly alter soil functionality indicators in burned areas, and detected higher levels of organic matter, nitrogen, and basal soil respiration rates in burned soils compared to unburnt soils. Overall, our results further suggest that multifunctionality increases with postfire managing strategies in the short-term, being log erosion barriers the better option to quickly recovery forest function similar to unburned forest in Mediterranean ecosystems. This information is critical for understanding forest recovery after a given perturbation and ultimately talks about the vulnerability of multifunctionality in wildfire affected forests.

Figure 3. Soil cover and infiltration measurements in Mediterranean soils.

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