A study published on the journal PLOS ONE demonstrates that omnivorous species are the most resistant to fire.
The main authors of the article are researchers Eduardo Mateos, from the Department of Animal Biology of the University of Barcelona (UB), and Xavier Santos, from the Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources of the University of Porto. The article is also signed by experts Antoni Serra, from the Department of Animal Biology of UB; Teresa Saura and Ramon Vallejo, from the Department of Plant Biology of UB, and Santiago Sabaté, from the Department of Ecology of UB and the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF).
The study analyses changes in composition and abundance in 274 species after the fire that happened in August 2003 in Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac Natural Park. It was developed within the monitoring of fauna recolonization developed in the burnt area after the fire.
After the fire
It is the first time that a study compares different responses of a set of animal organisms to fire (snails, spiders, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, bugs, birds and reptiles). The study also enabled to analyse some causes that could explain species response, for instance dietary and mobility patterns.
According to authors, omnivorous species are more resilient to fire probably due to their ability to adapt their dietary habits to available food resources, which vary between burnt and unburnt areas. Surprisingly, the study also demonstrates that high-mobility species -- such as birds that move to unburnt areas -- and low-mobility species -- like snails that cannot hide and die by burning -- are the ones that show more changes in composition.
Professor Eduardo Mateos affirms that "postfire management practices must consider the strong relationship between animal and plant communities. If the main objective of is to maximize biodiversity, habitat management may provide mosaics to preserve heterogeneity; the study proves that this would be the best management practice."
Even if it seems to go against general opinion, results support the idea that fire may play a critical role for some threatened species, as the elimination of some species enables the appearance of certain species that can be more interesting regarding conservation. This would be the case of snail Xerocrassa montserratensis and Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa, two interesting species which appeared after the fire in the area.
Other researchers and technicians also collaborated in the study. They belong to several institutions such as the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Girona, the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), the Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC), the Natural History Museum of Barcelona, the Estación Experimental de les Zonas Áridas, the Mediterranean Centre for Environmental Studies (CEAM), the Oficina Tècnica de Parcs Naturals of the Barcelona Provincial Council and the Directorate General for the Environment and Biodiversity of the Goverment of Catalonia.
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