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Étude de l'impact d'incendies de forêt répétés sur la biodiversité et sur les sols. Recherche d'indicateurs. Rapport final détaillé.

Abstract : Goals: This project aimed at assessing the impact of forest fire repetition on vegetation and the soil, in terms of biodiversity, carbon balance and the global ecosystem potential. The study area is the Maures massif (Mediterranean area in the South-East of France), an ecosystem developed on crystalline rocks. Because of the persistent drought during the project, we studied the interaction between fire recurrence and drought recurrence. Protocols: The sampling design includes 3 fire regimes during the last 50 years (many fires = 3-5, medium = 1-2 fires, control = no fire) and 3 time spans since the last fire (very recent = 9-12 months, recent = 3-5 years, old = 15-25 years). Control plots did not burn since either 50 years, or 200 years. 31 plots were laid out, five by treatment except for the old growth control forest (1 plot). The follow-up of the same plots during 3 years allowed furthermore studying the short-term dynamics of the environment after fire. We studied the functional relations between various aerial and soil compartments of the ecosystem at several spatial and temporal scales, combining physical, chemical and biologic factors, to identify key processes and species controlling the resilience of the environment or its resistance to disturbances. Results: Globally, the time since the last fire, thus the ecosystem resilience dynamics, were more influent on most of the measured parameters than the number or the frequency of fires. However, these last ones often play a functionally significant role, their relative importance increasing with the number of fires. The absence of fires for 150 - 200 years allowed a dramatic recovery of the fertility and biological activity. The repletion of the carbon stock in the superficial soil horizons (0 15 cm) and important modifications in flora structure and composition were particularly significant. With a mean fire frequency of one fire every 25 to 50 years, a good global resilience of the ecosystem, its flora and its functioning was observed, but at a low level of potential and at the shrinkage limit: most of the organic matter was limited to the first centimetres of the topsoil (0-5cm) where the biologic activity concentrated at fire's mercy. Most of the parameters which are modified by the fire recovered quantitatively in 15 to 25 years. But 50 years were generally necessary for the resilience of qualitative aspects, notably for the organic matter, biogeochemical cycles, microbiologic functioning of the soil and plant diversity.With higher fire frequencies (4 fires or more in 50 years, or fires occurring at less than 10 years interval), many parameters are durably altered, showing a global degradation of the ecosystem potential: it was particularly true for vegetation composition and structure, soil fauna and the loss of organic matter and its qualitative transformation. This last change led to drop in the activity, the resistance and the resilience of microbial communities. The nitrogen cycle was particularly disturbed. With one to 3 fires in 50 years, these forests do not store nor lose significantly carbon in the superficial soil horizons nor in the living biomass; a higher frequency led the forest to be a carbon source. With no fires over 50 years, and particularly after more than 150 years, these forests become a good carbon sink. The conjunction of numerous fires and repeated droughts led to a collapse of the biological functioning of the ecosystem. Fire and drought amplified mutually their deleterious impact. The persistent drought from 2003 to 2007 stopped the normally fast recovery dynamics in the first year after the fire of year 2003, and even made some biologic parameters decline. Plots with the higher fire frequency up to 2003 were the most impacted by drought. The preliminary effect of drought also dramatically increased the impact of the fires of year 2007. A threshold of 4 successive years of severe drought seems to be a critical threshold for the ecosystem, as well as 4 fires would be a critical threshold for the number of fires in 50 years. A set of indicators of the health status and dynamics of the ecosystem was selected among biological, physical and chemical parameters.
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  • HAL Id : hal-02591040, version 1
  • IRSTEA : PUB00024921

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M. Vennetier, L. Cecillon, René Guénon, A. Schaffhauser, A. Vergnoux, et al.. Étude de l'impact d'incendies de forêt répétés sur la biodiversité et sur les sols. Recherche d'indicateurs. Rapport final détaillé.. irstea. 2008, pp.238. ⟨hal-02591040⟩

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