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Does fire increase the spatial heterogeneity of bird communities in Mediterranean landscapes?

Authors

  • Sergi Herrando,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Animal Biology (Vertebrates), University of Barcelona, Avenue. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
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  • Lluís Brotons,

    1. Department of Animal Biology (Vertebrates), University of Barcelona, Avenue. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
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    • Present address: Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionelle et Evolutive-CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex, France

  • Santiago Llacuna

    1. Department of Animal Biology (Vertebrates), University of Barcelona, Avenue. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
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*Corresponding author.Present address: Catalan Institute of Ornithology, C./Girona 168, E-5, 08037 Barcelona, Spain.Email: sherrand@bio.ub.es

Abstract

The occurrence of large burnt areas has increased considerably in southern Europe in recent years. In order to design management plans to prevent large wildfires while preserving biodiversity, understanding of the ways in which birds respond to these fires is required. We investigated the spatial variability of both avifauna and habitat structure in three zones: unburnt, burnt in 1982, and burnt in 1994. The habitat structure of the unburnt zone was the most variable spatially. However, bird species composition between sampling points was very homogeneous in space. In contrast, the bird communities inhabiting burnt zones were more spatially heterogeneous. This pattern was caused by distinct specific responses to variations in habitat structure. Open-space species responded to small changes in habitat structure with large changes in local abundance, whereas the response of forest species to these structural variations was much less. We suggest that land managers should select specific zones with limited vegetation recovery within large burnt areas and maintain them as open space to keep combustibility low and provide an appropriate habitat for several open space species that are of conservation concern.

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