Question: Is post-fire, medium-term vegetation dynamics determined by land-use or fire history prior to fire?
Location: South-facing slope in the Gallinera valley, Alicante province, eastern Spain.
Methods: After mapping the land-use and fire history of the study site using photo-interpretation, we sampled vegetation structure on a set of plots representing the most frequent land-use and fire history combinations on an area burned six years before sampling. We studied the effects of land-use history, comparing the one-fire land-use trajectories. We analysed the effects of fire history; comparing one- and two-fire plots for both previously cropped and uncropped areas.
Results: Most variables were not significantly different between the earliest abandoned plots (abandoned at least 38 years before the fire) and the uncropped plots. On the most recently abandoned plots (abandoned between one and four years before the fire), the therophyte richness and the ratio of seeder:resprouter richness were significantly greatest. Different fire recurrences did not determine different post-fire vegetation on either the uncropped or the early abandoned plots (all dominated by fire-recruited seeder shrubs). The most recently abandoned plots had a lower resilience to fire.
Conclusions: Land-use history and recent pre-fire land use, in particular, determined the post-fire vegetation in the medium term. The vegetation composition converged during secondary succession among land-use histories. Increasing fire recurrence had a small effect on mature plant communities, due to the combination of life-history traits determining the response to fire of the dominant species.
Nomenclature: de Bolòs et al. (1990) for vascular plants, except for Quercus ilex ssp. ballota.