European Journal of Forest Research | 2019
Analyzing the recent dynamics of wildland fires in Quercus suber L. woodlands in Sardinia (Italy), Corsica (France) and Catalonia (Spain)
Wildland fires represent a major threat to Quercus suber L. ecosystems, which provide relevant socioeconomic and ecological services in the Mediterranean Basin. In this work, we analyzed recent wildland fire dynamics in cork oak woodlands along the fire-prone areas of Sardinia (Italy), Corsica (France) and Catalonia (Spain). We first characterized geographic extent and main characteristics of cork oak woodlands in these regions and analyzed how environmental (climate and elevation) and socioeconomic factors (population and land uses) vary in the areas covered by Quercus suber L. We then evaluated how wildfires affected cork oak stands and, by logistic regression analysis, to what extent wildfires in cork oak areas were related to the above set of environmental and anthropic explanatory variables. Results revealed specific variations across study areas in cork oak characteristics as well as in environmental and social factors. We highlighted the spatial and temporal patterns of wildfires on cork oak woodlands, in terms of extent, seasonality, frequency and main driving factors. In the period 2003–2015, the percentage of cork oak woodlands burned ranged from 3.42% in Corsica to 11.30% in Sardinia. A few large and severe wildfires accounted for most of the area burned in cork oak woodlands. The most significant predictive variable that explained the spatial variation in wildland fire ignitions inside or nearby cork oaks was summer precipitation, while the weight of other factors varied depending on the region. This study provides evidence on recent fire dynamics in cork oak woodlands and gives valuable information and insights for the implementation of forest management and planning strategies in the Mediterranean area.