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Salvage Logging Versus the Use of Burnt Wood as a Nurse Object to Promote Post-Fire Tree Seedling Establishment

Authors


J. Castro, email jorge@ugr.es

Abstract

Intense debate surrounds the effects of post-fire salvage logging (SL) versus nonintervention policies on forest regeneration, but scant support is available from experimental studies. We analyze the effect of three post-fire management treatments on the recruitment of a serotinous pine (Pinus pinaster) at a Mediterranean mountain. Treatments were applied 7 months after the fire and differ in the degree of intervention, ranging from “no intervention” (NI, all trees left standing) to “partial cut plus lopping” (PCL, felling most of the trees, cutting the main branches, and leaving all the biomass in situ without mastication), and “SL” (felling and piling the logs, and masticating the woody debris). Seedling survival after 3 years was the highest in PCL (47.3% versus 38.7% in SL). This was associated with the amelioration of microclimatic conditions under the scattered branches, which reduced radiation and soil temperature while increasing soil moisture. Seedling density after 2 years was approximately 5.5 times higher in PCL than in SL, as in SL a large fraction of seedlings was lost as a consequence of mechanized mastication. The NI treatment showed the lowest seedling survival (17.3%). Nevertheless, seedling density was similar to SL. Seedling growth scarcely differed among treatments. Our results show that branches left onsite acted as nurse objects that improved key microclimatic conditions for seedling recruitment. This creates a facilitative interaction ideal for seedling establishment in moisture-deficient ecosystems, as it provides the benefit of a shading overstory but without underground competition.

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