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Returning home after fire: how fire may help us manage the persistence of scrub-steppe specialist bird populations

AutorPérez-Granados, Cristian; Serrano-Davies, Eva; Noguerales, Víctor
Palabras claveMediterranean scrub-steppe
Fire changes
Dupont’s Lark
Scrub encroachment
Chersophilus duponti
Fecha de publicación2018
EditorSpringer Nature
CitaciónBiodiversity and Conservation 27(12): 3087-3102 (2018)
ResumenSemi-natural open habitats have drastically changed in the last few decades due to agricultural intensification and rural depopulation. Steppe-birds, and especially those adapted to primary stages of vegetation succession, are threatened by an increase in scrub cover, and management actions are being applied to reverse scrub encroachment and restore habitat suitability in semi-natural open habitats. In this paper we evaluated for the first time, the long-term effects of a wildfire on habitat structure, vegetation productivity, and the associated response of an endangered scrub-steppe specialist bird, the Dupont’s Lark Chersophilus duponti. Wildfire occurred in a Mediterranean steppe of central Spain dominated by permanent community of dwarf cushions scrubs. Bird abundance was evaluated by line transects in the burnt and unburnt areas 3 years prior to the fire and 4 and 7 years after the fire. We quantified changes in habitat structure at fine scale level through vegetation sampling points and in vegetation productivity by estimating the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Fire had strong effects for at least up to 4 years after the fire, when lower NDVI values, less scrub cover and fewer, but not significant, number of males were detected in the burnt area with respect to the pre-fire conditions. Seven years after fire most vegetation variables measured did not differ between areas, number of males detected within the burnt area was recovered and NDVI values in burnt area were slightly recovered but were significantly lower than in control area. Slow regeneration of the scrub cover after fire explained the unsuccessful occupation of the burnt area by the Dupont’s Lark up to several years after fire. The more dispersed and shorter habitat created by fire 7 years after the fire seems to be more suitable for the species than that in control areas. The large number of males around the burnt area may have played a role in the recolonization process. In sum, vegetation recovery and the presence of a low scrub-steppe specialist, as the Dupont’s lark, suggests that fire management could be integrated into conservation plans to effectively manage scrub encroachment processes in Mediterranean scrub-steppes.
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1007/s10531-018-1586-y
e-issn: 1572-9710
issn: 0960-3115
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