Pine afforestation, herriza and wildfire: a tale of soil erosion and biodiversity loss in the Mediterranean region
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SourceInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
From a western society’s perspective, wildfires are catastrophic events that jeopardise biodiversity and cause soil erosion, not to mention risk to human lives and properties. However, many Mediterranean-type ecosystems are not only resilient to wildfires but sensitive to the lack of wildfires. This communication focuses on the Mediterranean heathland or herriza as a paradigmatic fire-prone ecosystem to illustrate how most negative impacts allegedly attributed to wildfires actually occur in commercial forestry plantations. They are caused by aggressive forestry practices prior to the wildfire. In natural Mediterranean habitats, such as the herriza, complete wildfire suppression may actually pose a serious threat to biodiversity. The large existing body of scientific knowledge on the relationships of Mediterranean ecosystems with fire should be incorporated into plans and policies dealing with wildfire and conservation to make them more appropriate and efficient. Finally, burned natural areas should not be regarded, or treated, as dead pieces of nature and destroyed ecosystems, but as a transitional stage within the dynamics of Mediterranean-type ecosystems.